Have you ever seen something in someone and longed to experience it for yourself?
That’s how it was with Running Boy. The first time I watched him run I saw something in his eyes that I wanted to experience myself. It was as if he was at peace. A deep sense of calm and happiness running through him, through his veins, through his breathing.
I knew he was a runner before I knew much more about him. But so was I, or so I thought. I’d been training for the Paris half marathon which was hard work in the middle of a freezing Lyon winter. Some evenings the temperature reached around minus fifteen with the wind-chill factor, yet still I was out training. I completed the half marathon, my first, in just over two hours but then, as an old Achilles injury crept up on me and with no other races to train for I lost faith and became an occasional runner when the pain wasn’t too bad.
But that first time I watched Running Boy as I cycled around Parc Tete D’Or in Lyon I came to the painful realisation that I was not a runner at all. I found it hard. I struggled with my breathing, my stubbornness, my old injuries. I did it to keep fit. I didn’t do it because I loved it. Feeling like a fake I cycled round the park, pacing him on my bicycle, looking at the ease and joy with which he ran. I wanted that. I wanted to feel that. I wanted something to matter to me as much as running mattered to him. He looked like it was the one thing that truly kept him alive.
He was a natural who, even after a heavy Friday night, would get out of bed on a Saturday morning and run twice around the park (8km) in a flat 30 minutes. I tried it with him a couple of times but he was long gone, out of sight as I fought with myself and tried to run through the pain, cursing my body that would not do as I wanted. In the end I gave up, enjoying the leisurely cycle rides instead on our Saturday mornings together.
I used to watch him methodically writing down his times each week. Trying to beat his own record. For the year we lived together in Lyon, I never once saw anyone overtake him on the running track. He was in a different league.
So it was to my surprise and slight horror when he asked me recently if I wanted to run with him. We’re no longer in Lyon but he has found another route through the fields and along the river, up and down the hills of this farming landscape we now call home.
I’ve always hated to see couples or friends running together when one is so obviously much slower than the other and it looks like the faster is just waiting around, bored and frustrated at the pace. I didn’t want to hold Running Boy back, but with a little gentle persuasion I eventually gave in and decided to go with him. I wanted to learn from him after all and see what is was that kept him doing this week after week after week.
The first time was really hard work as I once again struggled with my breathing and fought with myself to keep going but with a little help I did it. Uphill was the hardest but by accepting some sound advice and slowing right down I was able to keep going. Downhill has never been a problem for me and it felt good to lengthen my stride and really fly. And he was right of course, I did feel better afterwards.
More importantly though, I slowly started to realise that being a runner requires strategy. Not a strong point for me. I’ve always been someone who does what comes easily and conveniently ignores what doesn’t. It was how I got through school and how I seemingly have been getting through life. I had never really thought about it before, but on that first run with Running Boy I finally felt the penny drop.
In lacking good strategy I have often ended up doing what comes naturally which is not always the same as what I’ve wanted to do. I’ve spent years getting better at what I was already good at instead of learning how to do what I really wanted. Of course it’s easier to do things you’re naturally good at but that doesn’t mean you can’t do things you’re not so good at. It just means you need a good strategy.
Strategy, it would appear, is what makes the impossible possible.
So even though parts of my run are still difficult I now realise that I don’t have to give up. I can keep going and can ultimately become a better runner. By taking me for a run, Running Boy taught me a valuable lesson in the importance of strategy.
Makes me love him all the more ♥