Every Sunday I wake up and know what I want to do. Sit in my pyjamas, eat a bacon sandwich, play on my Oculus Quest, watch a cooking show with my family and read the newspapers. And drink at least 4-5 cups of tea (the English Sabbath ritual).
But then I get the twinge.
I should probably go for a run first.
I plod upstairs. I find my sweats and a hoodie.
Ok, I’ll just put these on and walk around in them for a bit, see how I feel.
I grab my water bottle. Take it downstairs. Fill it under the cold tap. By now I’m starting to think about where I dumped my running shoes. As I hunt the usual spots by the front and back door, I pull my AirPods out of my pocket, open the little white case, stick the headphones in my ears and snap the case shut like a cigarette lighter.
Ok, I’ll just put a podcast on. One of the ones I’ve been saving for the weekend.
Now I’m feeling my energy levels go up. Just a hair. But it’s enough to get me a notch more revved up than I was 10 minutes ago.
To finish this laboured routine, I grab a baseball cap to cover my bed hair so I don’t look like some underslept weirdo writer running around the park, even though that’s not exactly far off the mark. I make sure to pee. I always drink too much caffeine in the morning (see above) and there’s nothing worse than needing the bathroom mid-run and messing up my splits in the hunt for a public restroom.
Then I’m out the door.
Ok, am I totally sure I want to do this? Should I just walk to the high street and grab some tea bags and a magazine instead?
So I make a deal with myself: try running for 10 minutes. If after that I feel like my legs aren’t having it, I can turn around and go do whatever else I feel like.
“Deal?” I ask myself.
These are the weird mental games I have to play. Somehow it’s easier if I remove my POV from the first-person and talk myself as a coach looking out for my best interests.
So I run. I start with a slow jog. Within 30 seconds I feel like I may not have this in me today. My knees feel every bit of impact from the ground. My feet feel it too. And, hey, I’m not sure I feel fully recovered from the last workout yet? Did I eat enough? I’m tired. I probably don’t have this in me.
3 minutes pass.
I approach the usual first steep hill after a take a right past my street.
Let’s get over this and on my way to the park, then make a decision.
Five minutes more and now I’m at the start of the running path. I’m a bit warmer. Things are loosening up.
Ok, let’s go through the park up to the entrance of the fields, and THEN I can decide if I want to turn back.
I see flashes of people zip by me as I weave on and off the footpath to maintain social distancing. I push through and feel my adrenaline spike. I flick my Spotify over to one of my current pump-up songs, maybe a piece from the Tenet soundtrack, Jay-Z, a pop punk playlist – whatever helps me push harder. I feel my lungs working and taste the fresh grassy air as I take deeper breaths.
Now my pace has picked up big time. I’m at the edge of the field. It’s time to make the choice: stride out and go further, or call it a day.
I check the pedometer. I’ve run one mile.
Let’s keep going.
And I push on. Stretch out my legs. Now I’m warm. I flick over to a podcast again. Settle in.
Now I can run.
What running has taught me is the same thing writing has taught me over the last ten years.
The first mile is a lie.
The first 100 words on the page is a lie.
It’s the same with dating. Going to a party. Trying to talk to someone you like.
The first attempt is a lie.
The first conversation is a lie.
It’s when you do the first bit that everything in your soul tries to hold you back. It wants to stay at rest. Your brain wants to keep things as they are (even if you don’t like things the way they are!)
That’s why you have to keep in your mind always: The first mile is a lie.
And beyond it lies all the truths about who you really are.
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