I started running about half a year ago. It hurts. That’s the main thing. I don’t do it because I enjoy the buzz you get afterwards, and I don’t do it because it’s made me lose weight, or gives me time to myself, or gets me out of the house in the fresh air. I do it because it hurts. It’s monotonous, and repetitive, and hurts. I do it because I’m trying to teach myself to get through the bit that hurts and get to the bit where it feels okay again and you can carry on and forget that there was a voice inside your head telling you to give up and go home – or you can remember that voice, and remember that you told it to fuck off, you weren’t ready to quit yet, you wanted to carry on. I run because it hurts, and you get through the hurt, and you learn about how much of the pain you can take, then you learn that pain is information, nothing more or less, and that you can treat it with the contempt of anything else you might be told by anyone, anywhere.
You run because you want to run. You don’t go anywhere and you don’t see anything. You travel from one place to another, through the place in between, and you pass by other lives on the way, or they pass by you, like passengers on a train watching you run, and you watch the train pass under the road beneath you and you keep your eyes up ahead, where there is only grey pavement and there is only the road in front of you, where there is more pain, and you keep going, because you want to, because you have to, because some kind of arbitrary measuring point in metric or imperial distance is up there, waiting for you, or some unit of time has to be clocked off.
There is music playing, though you don’t hear it. You feel the music in your body and you feel it playing around you. You hear the rhythm of your feet, tapping out the same sound and the same sound and the same sound and the same sound, and you feel your breath boiling through your chest and the spit whirling around your face, and it reminds you of a song you once heard, or used to play, and takes you to the place where you used to listen to it, or of the time when you used to play it, maybe a summer, 1996, and the room where you used to live, and the people you knew, and the people who were there and seemed so important and are now gone, all of them, some in the ground and some just to other places – they could be around the next corner, waiting for you, but they won’t be, and they’re gone forever, just like the memory you have of the song you heard, which is slipping away, slipping from your grasp, like your sweat into the wind. Keep running.
Run. I used to think people who ran were running from something, something they wanted to forget, but I don’t think that’s the case anymore; I think they were probably most likely running towards something. You’re always running forward, always making some kind of progress, always putting one foot in front of the other, if you’re not going anywhere it doesn’t matter, you’re always making some kind of change. Change is possible. Your muscles get stronger, your endurance gets better, your speed increases, your tolerance of the pain gets better. You get better at the thing you’re doing. Unlike so many other places in life, you can improve, you can do the same thing again and again and it gets better rather than stagnating; you can actually change and be better at something than you were before. You can be better. You can be the person you want to be. You can find something, somewhere, anything, where you’re able to make a difference to yourself. You can run. You can get through the pain. You can do it.
Then you retreat back into ordinary life, and you’re still the same person, and your progress can’t be measured, or if anything you’re getting worse, and other people judge you and find that you’re not good enough and that you could be better. People tell you when to run and stop. People tell you what you should be doing and they try to encourage you to do things you don’t want to do, or to be a different person so that you would do things the way they would do them rather than the way you would do them, not that they’re trying to tell you how to do anything, but don’t do it that way, do it this way. People tell you that you could be better. People tell you that you’re getting worse. People tell you that you’re letting them down. People tell you that, unfortunately, they’re going to have to use the word unfortunately, and then the rest of the sentence doesn’t ever matter, because you’re looking at yourself sitting in a chair in a room with the door closed and you’re looking through the wrong end of a telescope, and everything seems to be getting darker. Unfortunately.
But there is no unfortunately when you’re running. You just run. You get on with it. You get better all the time. The road keeps coming to you and you keep coming to it.