This morning I went out exploring. I’ve spent the week face down in a tin of Quality Street with a gently nagging pre-Christmas hangover and needed an invigorating blast of fresh air. I certainly got one – when I left the house there was an icing-sugar dusting of snow on the ground, but by the time I got back about half an inch had settled on my head.
I love this sort of run: don’t map it or time it, just go and see where you end up. I set out with my phone, my keys, a tenner and an oyster card in a bum bag. That means I have the freedom to improvise – even if I find myself hobbled by shin splints an hour from home, I can easily get on a bus and find my way back. It also means I can just buy a drink if I need one so I don’t have to carry water. It feels free and exciting.
So this morning I left my house and turned left, just because I don’t go that way very often (it’s a bit hilly – I’m not pretending I don’t suffer from a healthy amount of laziness).
I ran past families dragging toboggans to the park, a man gingerly stepping out of his house boat in a dressing gown and slippers, a rowing club where committed men in lycra leotards were setting out along a canal that was frozen at the edges. I ended up, via a previously unknown route, on the lovely Walthamstow marshes. That’s where the snow really started to come down. It’s so peaceful on the marsh that I could hear the fizzing noise as it settled. I felt like I’d run, got lost, and ended up in Narnia.
This is running at its best: sensing, not thinking; no headphones; no goal; just running for the joy of it, for the fact that you can. Running should be about freedom. You don’t need expensive equipment, you don’t need a timetable, you just need to get out there.
It’s a great way to explore. I often do this on holiday to get my bearings, though I learned the hard way that you can end up on an accidental endurance run in 35 degree heat if you’re too daft to remember the name of your hotel.
So I urge you to do the same. Just get out there – any time length, walk some, run some, stop and admire the view, take a detour to investigate an interesting street (runners seem to be virtually invisible to the general public so you can be as nosey as you want). Whatever takes your fancy.
For those who find themselves prone to injury, read Chi Running by Danny Dreyer – it’ll help you correct your form and make running feel almost effortless.