I had a hard few weeks with work. Clients were being overly demanding, staff were stressed and we were all working flat out. Tonight's run therefore was more for my head than my body.
I set off out of the door and turned up the road heading towards the woods that skirt around the golf course. The sky was still light and clear although the sun was starting to dip and a slight chill forced me to set off at a brisk pace to warm up. My legs felt great and the immediate release out into the fresh air felt good.
The first 1/4 mile is uphill and is always a a bit of a shock to my system as it wakes up to the realisation that it is going running but tonight felt comfortable from the start. I turned at the top of the road and joined the woodland path as it wound its way through the trees, my feet hardly making a sound on the soft earth but my thoughts still wrestling with the issues of the day and the problems of tomorrow. I disturbed a small deer who looked as shocked as me as I rounded a corner and it bounded away effortlessly as if teasing me to chase it.
My breathing was coming easily and steady as I sped along the path by the small loch, my legs had found a rythm now and I started to look around and take in my surroundings in the fading light.
The next two miles were all woodland path, a few steep climbs and one or two descents didn't disrupt my rythym and I kept pushing on, the sound of my breathing and footsteps accompanied by the evening birdsong as they found a roost for the night. There was no-one else around tonight, the usual dog walkers were done for the day and the golfers ensconsed at the 19th hole and I revelled in the glorious isolation as my mind started to clear and focus on the here and now.
I left the woods and turned onto the country lane that leads me further out on my route, a stiff climb up to Baldernock Church and I was breathing hard but clear and strong. My arms working as hard as my legs as I pushed to the top of the hill and headed out along quiet farm roads. I kept glancing over my shoulder to watch the sun as it began to disappear behind the distant hills in a final burst of orange and I returned to my rythym, strong and steady.
Cows glanced up from the adjacent fields to see me run by, expressionless and unimpressed, they returned to their grazing and I turned the corner to start the climb to my turnaround point. The road climbs steeply before giving way to a farm track and I am pushing hard now, legs are starting to hurt and my breathing is getting faster but it feels good; no, it feels great! I push on, harder still as I see the small cairn on top of the hill getting closer. The sun is now just a faint red glow behind my left shoulder but there is still enough light in the sky to make out the path and I bound over the small puddles left by the previous days rain as climb higher and higher before finally arriving at the cairn.
I stand there breathing hard, sweat pouring down my face and look around me to take in the view before darkness fully takes hold. Ben Lomond in the distance one way and the lights of Glasgow the other. Finally, as the sound of my breathes subsides, I am left with complete stillness, there is not a sound to be heard and the breeze that had chilled me when I set off is now completely gone.
I am conscious however of the fading light so I turn and set off back down the path I have just come up. My pace getting faster and faster as gravity takes hold and I am just barely able to make out my footing in the darkness. Onto the road now and throwing caution to the wind I speed up faster still, my legs shuddering with each footfall and my arms flailing like a windmill as I eventually reach the level once more and return to my rythym.
I decide to stay on the road all the way back as darkness has now descended and the woodland path is not a sensible option. The road rollercoasters up and down and I push on hard, totally absorbed now in the act of running. The darkness having robbed me of my sight, I am totally tuned in to what I am doing. Legs are hurting but going strong, breathing is fast but clear, arms pumping as I climb and relaxing as I descend and my mind in its own place, at peace yet completely absorbed.
As I approach the top of my road, the streetlights break my focus and I ease back and jog the last few yards back to my front door. 11 miles done and I am elated, tired and completely stress free.
That's why I run!