I haven’t always been a runner. For the vast majority of my life I thought it was the most stupid pointless activity known to man. Give me a hockey ball to chase and a team not to let down and I’ll run all day. Put me on a track and tell me to run in circles by myself. Forget it. I’d rather go to the pub.
But at the beginning of 2008 I found myself overworked, overweight and over exhausted. Something had to change.
This was two years into my ‘new career’. The one that was supposed to make every workday rosy and wonderful. And while I absolutely loved the work I was doing, I didn’t love the way I was doing it. I was working for peanuts, and had given my heart and soul to a job that took up every waking moment and most sleeping ones as well. On paper I was living my dream, but in reality I was operating on sheer willpower and I could feel myself coming apart at the seams.
So in January of 2008 a stupid idea entered my head… that I should run the London Marathon. I won’t lie. My initial motivation was entirely the significance I would feel being able to say “I’ve done it”. But it very quickly developed into a way to find space for ‘me’ in my life. To reconnect with who I was and what was important to me.
The four months of training for that marathon was not necessarily easy, but it was almost fun and kind of addictive. My first 3km training run left me feeling nauseous, but I’d told enough people that I was starting, and had enough fear of the marathon itself that I kept on going. And every time I went out for a run after that I was breaking old barriers. 5k. 10k. 15k. 20k. 30k. I don’t think I really believed I could run that far for that long. So when I realised that the trick was just not to stop running, I was astonished at what I could actually achieve.
But whilst the physical accomplishment was satisfying, it was the mental accomplishment that made it all worth while. Whereas a few weeks earlier I had been leaving work close to midnight, running – and the fear of the marathon – gave me a reason to switch off early, and go and do something that was good for me.
As my body plodded through the dark streets of London, my mind wandered through all the pressing issues of my day and my life. My senses stimulated by cold air rather than coffee or pizza, came up with better solutions to the work problems I would otherwise have been slogging over all evening. My spirit allowed to roam free in the empty streets rather than be cooped up in an office, flowed into the dim and neglected areas of my life, putting things in perspective and making me realise how fortunate I was.
My senses stimulated by cold air rather than coffee or pizza, came up with better solutions to the work problems I would otherwise have been slogging over all evening.
I don’t believe anyone can achieve perfect balance in ife. But if there was ever anything that made me more balanced, it was running. And the funny thing was that taking time from work and giving it to myself didn’t hinder my work, it actually made it better.
Without work I would never have become a runner. And without running I never would have become as good a worker.
What hobby or activity activity might have the same effect on your work?