Motivation comes in many different forms. Mine came after a check up with my local doctor several years ago. I was relatively healthy, but I wanted to get my weight down to somewhere near where it was 20 years ago. Working on and building my own house, coupled with a career which involved being stuck behind a keyboard meant I’d neglected that basic requirement – health.
One morning I grabbed my hiking shoes and went for a walk on the local bush trails. I planned to walk for an hour. I returned home 3 hours later, still wanting to do more. Something sparked inside me. As I walked questions raced through my mind. Why had I stopped exercising all those years ago? Why had I not done this for so long?
From a three- time Hawaiian Ironman finisher, to someone who no longer owned a pair of running shoes, not to mention, the only real bicycle I owned was an old track-racing frame. No wheels, just a frame that I kept for reasons of nostalgia, hung up on the wall of my workshop. A beat up mountain bike sat idle, with flat tires. I decided things needed to change.
I ran when I was a child, I’d raced and set records that lasted for 30 years. I’d trained most of my teenage years. Almost any sport, I’d tried and often moderately succeeded in. In time I grew tired of pressure and I’d learnt to associate sport, be it running, triathlons or bicycle racing, with pain, not pleasure. Yet I desperately wanted to turn all this into a career as a cyclist in Europe. Until one night, the decision about any type of career was taken from me.
An assault left me with mild brain damage and life, in an instant, had changed direction. As I slowly recovered I decided I needed to travel – I needed to clear my mind. I lived in other countries, experienced new cultures and returned home a few years later to complete a degree. I was hungry to experience life, learn new things and not dwell on what could have been. I emotionally ran so far from my previous life and in doing so left any form of exercise behind me.
Lately I’ve remembered something. I love running. Not running from past upheavals, but lovely, pure, actual running. The sense of freedom, the almost playful nature of one of our species’ most natural and necessary actions. Yes, from my previous sentence, and obvious to most runners, I’ve read Born to Run, but moving along the bush tracks, small trails meandering through wet rainforests and hilly, dry-eucalypt woodlands, powered by your own legs, is exhilarating and at the same time it feels oddly ancient.
I’m older and I’m not as fast as I once was — I have to learn to run more efficient. Everyday, running on my local trails, is a lesson. A lesson in remembering to relax and enjoy one of life’s most simple and pure pleasures, constantly seeking that perfect, effortless running style. This is the challenge of learning to run again. Remembering how it felt to run on the school’s sports oval, barefoot, grass track, loving the feeling of moving fast. It’s a long road back to achieve that basic fitness level, but every step is worth it.
After completing my first 25 km trail race last Saturday night, I’ve once again realised the pure joy of running for the sake of running. However, this time there’s no ego, no expectations, just the sense that I’m learning something worthwhile and enjoying life.