Gratitude (or Happiness is a Warm Run)

As you hit your 40s, you begin to notice a significant proportion of the people you know start to either get ill, or bits start falling off.

Particularly among the women who’ve had children.

Even the athletes you know, the ones who run 40 miles at a time, or a half marathon during their lunch break, start to suffer from perpetual injuries because their bodies just can’t hack the pace any more. This wasn’t entirely what I was expecting from this decade.

I recently went for lunch with a friend I’ve known for years, who was 40 this year. She’s putting off a major operation because she’s still got a toddler at home. To make her feel better I showed her my hearing aids. Yes, it’s not a glamorous look. If you used to get called the Greta Garbo of the sixth form, it may not go with that version of your self image. However, I wear them. It helps me hear ‘Will you empty the dishwasher?’ instead of ‘Will you have a chocolate biscuit?’. It avoids my husband thinking I’m being selectively deaf. I’m not saying I don’t occasionally practice selective deafness anyway but…….

I have genetic hearing loss, inherited from my Dad’s side of the family and I fully expect to be completely stone deaf in my 80s. Glasses seem to be socially acceptable at this age, but hearing aids are not. There are a lot of adverts on hidden versions and comments on how you can’t really see mine. I’ve now lost count of the number of conversations I’ve had with people where they’ve admitted ‘yes I need some of those’ or ones that go something like this:

Waitress: ‘The quiche on special today is the leek, mushroom and creme fraiche’
Me: (with my hearing aids) ‘Ok thank you’
Friend in 40s: ‘What was that?’
Me: (laughs): ‘What did you just say to me about needing hearing aids?’

Maybe it’s because they’re my friends, but the way most people I know deal with their problems is to use humour. In my experience the women are fairly blunt with one another. Friends with pelvic floor issues that will affect their performance on the dance floor and need to *ahem*, prepare in advance, will tell you. You will laugh (with them), until you cry. You will share whatever it is that also bothers you and you will console each other.

Others will get really sick. Someone close to me has had breast cancer and has been in treatment for the last year. She has very small children and I don’t know how she’s done it. Her prognosis looks good but she remains the reason I’m making myself run a long race for charity in the Autumn. As readers who have seen this post will know, I love running, so it’s not a hardship and I don’t need anyone to say well done. I am also running it because I want to stay fit for as long as possible and I will carry on doing so for as long as I can.

Sweaty woman in skin tight neon don’t look glamorous either but I’m thankful I’m not doing so badly and that I’m able to carry on laughing with my friends.

Gratuitous use of laughing Buddha. Whatever's happening in your life, he made you smile didn't he? Photo credit:  MichaelKuhn_pics / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Gratuitous use of laughing Buddha. Whatever’s happening in your life, he made you smile didn’t he?
Photo credit: MichaelKuhn_pics / Foter / CC BY-NC-SA

Smiling while running?

Yes, despite the unsmiling runners, this proves others do love it too...

Yes, despite the unsmiling runners, others do love it too…

Until recently, I didn’t understand why a lot of other runners wouldn’t smile back at me as I was limbering up to full speed on the country roads leading out of the village I live in.

Running makes me unbelievably happy. I was a pretty good long distance runner at school but didn’t rediscover it until my late thirties. Now I’m a regular. I will run in wind, rain, hail, snow, heat (in England ‘heat’ is anything over 20C) – balking only when I think I might break my ankle on ice. I once ran 9 miles in pouring rain. If anyone else had been out, which they weren’t as they were clearly saner than me, they’d have seen someone so wet you could have wrung me out and filled the nearest reservoir.

After my initial rediscovery of running, I felt like I’d had some sort of epiphany. I wanted to go up to total strangers, poke them and explain what they were missing. I was like some sort of running evangelist, leaping about, hands in the air, trying to spread the word. I’ve calmed down since then, although if no-one is looking I have been known to start waving my hands in the air for other reasons, generally because of whatever is on my iPod. I really do hope no-one ever does see that, as the blue lights and sirens might end up not being far behind.

I have to be honest and say that initially I took it up as I was working from home and needed some exercise to lose weight. However, unless you’re really going to get the miles in, this doesn’t really stack up. For example, two days ago, I ran almost 5 miles and according to my beloved Garmin, I burnt off something in the region of 550 calories. Basically if you went into Starbucks and ordered a Grande wholemilk hot chocolate with whipped cream, you’d have wiped out the whole run in the course of the ten minutes it took you to drink it. Fortunately buckets of hot chocolate don’t do it for me, so I’m relatively safe. Puts it into perspective doesn’t it?

You’re ok if you’re an ultra runner though. For those 40, 50 mile or longer (try this one?) runs, which are a whole other level of craziness addiction, you are allowed to eat cake on the way round.

So I don’t run to lose weight or even to maintain my weight. In reality, I run to let go of stress. There are very few things that have the same effect on me and now I understand why some other runners don’t smile. It is because they are focusing on being alone. When a slightly sweaty woman in skin tight pink and black neon flashes them a broad grin from the other side of the road, this is interfering with their production of Alpha waves. These are the ‘smooth, regular, electrical oscillations in the brain that occur when a person is awake but relaxed’ source. Even that definition makes me feel relaxed. When I run, I can go out feeling like a bag of knotted rope and come back feeling like a bunch of little white flowers have opened out in my brain. I’m happy when I come home and the rest of my family get the benefit.

One of the other things that seems to do this for me, is writing. So despite the fact that I have a million things to do today, this is why I’m here, writing about running.

What does the same for you?