I must admit I have never been a natural born runner. I’ve never dreamed of running the London Marathon or competing in an ultimate triathlon. The idea of a combined 2.4 mile swim, 128 mile cycle ride and 26.2 mile run, however admirable, is quite incomprehensible to me. I have always understood though, the desire to prove to yourself and others that you are strong, you can do anything and you can succeed. Nowadays, though, that strong powerful ‘me’ appeared to be crumbling and falling apart at the seams.
Baby steps. That’s what I told myself that 5am morning when the alarm went off and I put on my jogging bottoms and trainers for the first time. I stumbled out of bed, pushed some roll on deodorant under my arms, and grabbed the water bottle from the fridge. I knew I had to start somewhere and surely an early morning jog is a good enough place to start. I’d Googled enough – fitness, spin classes, gym, yoga and pilates. I’ve never exactly been a sociable creature and the idea of a gym packed full of sweaty, hot, beautiful people scared the heebie-jeebies out of me. Equally, I imagined myself on a yoga mat with a group of ladies stretching and having to make small talk afterwards – and that panicked me even more. If only I could be a regular person and hold a proper conversation without a wave of fear and awkwardness. I definitely would need a stronger deodorant and a green coloured concealer to cover the blaring flush in my cheeks if anyone dared to show me some attention. I’ve learnt to live with my social inabilities but it does make for a lonely existence sometimes and a daunting fear of change. An early morning run, I reminded myself, would make me stronger and healthier (both mentally and physically) and be a tick off the ‘self-improvement’ list. Baby step number 1 to a better me.
The early morning start definitely had its advantages as I made my way along Broadstairs High Street without a single person in sight. A lowly car passed me with a tired-looking business man inside. He seemed half awake, half asleep – probably dreaming ahead to the end of the day when he could return to his wife and kids after the long and stifling journey home from the bustling city. I felt strangely relieved that my life was so much more simple, but also jealous at the same time. My life lacked meaning, structure, and routine. I’d been made redundant five weeks earlier and suddenly nothing made sense anymore. I knew I needed to find another job – but where and why? I needed money but felt no desire to put myself out there to earn any. I needed purpose in my life but found it hard to raise my head from a drowning sense of inadequacy. Hence the first small steps out into the world again.
As another early morning commuter whizzed past me, I decided to head off from the main road and made my way down past the railway tracks and into the green undergrowth. The small pathway scared me for a moment as my heart and head battled with one another. I smiled to myself at the realisation that even a small run would have me so conflicted; the desire to be strong and independent versus the fear of being so isolated and alone. I blocked the thoughts and continued along the path, as the wet overgrown grass hit my legs and small birds made their way from tree to tree, speaking to each other in a beautiful language that only they could understand. As I reached for my water bottle, I spotted a badly-damaged bench on the right hand side of the path and made my way over. The poor wood had been left to decay over time and teenagers had scrawled mindless vandalism across its core but there underneath I noticed a small plaque remained. ‘To my beautiful wife Ivy – who loved to sit here’.
I carefully perched myself on the bench and peered across through the overgrown grass and weeds at the carefully tended allotments. I could definitely see why someone would love this spot – beautiful, peaceful, quietn… and then a noise. A gentle rustle in the distance. I sat perfectly still, containing my breath as much as possible and trying not to make a sound. Into the small clearing approached a beautiful proud mother fox with her three cubs. She stood strong, but nervously twitched her ears – always aware of possible danger. She carefully looked from side to side as the little ones continued to wrestle and play with each other. She turned her face to look directly at me. My breath caught in my throat and I feared she would dart away back into the bushes. Instead she sat down and peacefully blinked at me – her beautiful wild eyes looking into mine. After a few minutes, she started to make her way back into the undergrowth and her babies followed after her, prancing about, falling into each other and making little yipping noises. I sat silently for a few minutes longer in the peace and quiet and then headed for home. I thanked Ivy for sharing her beautiful and calm resting spot and to nature for giving me the time I needed to breathe again.
I knew I’d be just fine.
© 2020 Lucy Glover-Short
Lucy is a writer from Ramsgate. She works full time running her own business and enjoys reading, writing and music.