There's no place like home
Since lockdown began I've been organising old photos and files. Back in 2016 I started a blog about running, but due to my technological incompetence this was deleted somewhere along the way. Dredging through the depths of an old laptop, however, I found rough drafts for some of the posts. These included race reports, holiday descriptions and an account of why I love running at home. The latter seemed particularly appropriate at the moment, so I've added new pictures and uploaded it here.
There's no place like home
Many of the most dramatic and exciting runs I have been on have taken place in remote locations far from home comforts. The glamour of such adventures often leads us to neglect the runs closer to home, which I believe to be a mistake. There’s something magical about running in your local area, which is at once both comfortingly familiar and totally different from your normal interactions with your surroundings. For these reasons, we should value our home runs a little more.
Currently based in London I spend most of my time running laps of Clapham Common, the area where I played as a child, took stroppy walks as a teenager, and learnt to ride a bicycle. One of the things I love most about running around my home area is getting a different perspective - running through London I interact with people and my surroundings in an entirely different way.
One of my favourite runs is along the Thames and past the Houses of Parliament, where seeing the tourists' excitement at visiting these landmarks prompts me to appreciate my surroundings anew. Alternatively, I love that when you’re running laps of Clapham Common people you normally wouldn’t interact with at all take an interest and often cheer you on. It is through running at home that we, and our sport, becomes a part of our community.
My favourite 'home' runs are further afield, however, on the Isle of Lewis. My grandparents bought a house there in the early 1960s and the extended family have been visiting constantly ever since. We're based in a tiny village called Cliff. With less than ten houses the landscape impresses itself upon our meagre settlement. Steep hills in front and to the rear of the house form our valley with water, in the form of loch and sea, enclosing either end. A single road meanders through the exposed landscape connecting Cliff to the world beyond. Hardy sheep dot the hillsides.
Here running up one of the surrounding hills brings new perspective to your everyday surroundings through providing an insight into the landscape. Seeing your home, your daily commute, even your family from a different angle helps to remind us of the world beyond our daily existence, and just how small we are.
Contrastingly, the other aspect to home runs which is often underrated is the routine of them. Whilst these daily routes can occasionally seem mundane there is something magical and exciting about lacing your shoes at the kitchen table, setting off from the back door, and taking those first steps down a well-worn route.
These are the routes we train on, the routes we push on, the routes we dejectedly hobble home on an off day. These routes witness the ups and the downs, the pain and effort. There is something about their familiarity which is at once comforting and rarely boring.
The best example of this was an early morning beach run I instituted with my cousins and aunts on Lewis. Every morning over various summers I would raise the family and we would head for the beach to earn our breakfast. The early mornings weren’t always pleasurable, our legs didn’t always feel up for it, and sometimes we just wanted our breakfast. I’m glad we stuck with those runs, however, as they built camaraderie, helped to mark our progress, and are fondly remembered today.
Finally, running familiar routes provides an unbeatable way of interacting with your local area. Running provides a way to immerse yourself in your surroundings and witness the ticking of time, the different lights of morning and evening, and seasonal changes. There’s something exhilarating about struggling through a muddy field and finding it filled with buttercups a few months later. Or contrasting the differences between the sun rising and setting over the London skyline. Or standing on top of a hill in the sunshine, when you know it would have been snowy and treacherous a few weeks before. Our surrounding areas witness immense variation over time, and by venturing out into them we can too.
So as we struggle through the end of winter and the tedium of cold, dark training perhaps it is time to think of these regular routes as a little more than an exercise in fitness. Learn to appreciate your surroundings and Spring will come all the quicker!