Monday, 9 February 2015

Halfway Up a Mountain




Last weekend I found myself halfway up a mountain with a man who had been in knife fights, served two prison sentences for serious assault and had been sectioned after being diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder in 2010

It all started a few days earlier when I joined a running club in Glasgow. We were doing a particularly hard session of 1km intervals with 90 second recoveries. One of my fellow runners turned to me in the recovery 90 second phase looked at me and said, “I know you”. 

I did not recognise him at all and I was sure he was wrong but he quickly provided proof.

“You run along the canal in the morning don’t you? I see you sprinting along there sometimes”.

He was right of course but I still didn't recognise him but it was the start of a conversation which ended with us agreeing to going on a long run together that following weekend.

The amazing thing about running with someone is that the meditative nature of putting one foot in front of the other often lowers inhibitions and you end up talking about far more personal things then you would normally (I've written about this phenomenon before). Before long I discovered that my new running partner had lost more than 100 pounds since he started running and that is when the penny dropped. Of course I knew him. I knew him as the overweight guy who ran along the canal. I knew him as the fat guy who had even raced against me in an impromptu race for fun up a hill as I had passed him on a morning run - and when we’d got to the top of the hill we’d both gone our separate ways smiling. 

As we ran together last weekend he looked like a different man but as we talked I soon discovered running had not just changed his physical appearance. 

My fellow runner had a troubled past. He opened up to me about his time in prison for serious assault and knife fighting. We discussed drug and alcohol abuse. The custody battle for his two year old daughter and his battle with mental illness. 

In all this there was one constant theme: Running had changed his life.

Running had changed his weight. Running had given his life a new focus away from drink and drugs. But most importantly he told me running helped him to “live in the moment” - it was living in the moment that enabled him not be stressed about tomorrow and manage his mental health issues. 

It was in the spirit of “living in the moment” that he suggested we change our running route. Instead of running along the canal for ten miles and then running back he pointed to a small set of snow capped mountains in the distance; “Let’s run to the top of those hills”.

40 minutes later I found myself halfway up the mountain looking out across Glasgow with my new running partner. It was beautiful and one of the best running experiences I had ever had.

Running has not only changed my running partner's life it has changed my life too. I might not have had the same dramatic issues he has but running helps me cope with the stresses and strains of life. It has given me new insight into who I am and what I am capable of and it has given me new experiences. What I learnt half-way up a mountain is that if I let it, running will continue to change my life in ways I had never expected.

(The picture today is of two people running up the Kilpatrick hills. the same "mountain" I ran up)    

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