Alison Cowling

Alison Cowling

Director | Actor | Musician | Writer

Running and Milestones

The ninth entry of The Running Diaries, reaching epic waypoints along the journey…

I often find it strange writing the running diaries. I love it. I do. A chance for me to sit down and write, be creative and just unpack the buzzing thoughts in my head. But it’s changed the way I run too. For a few weeks when I started writing, I would run racking my brain for a theme… but the theme has started to appear so gradually nowadays as I look back on the week or the fortnight’s runs. And this theme couldn’t have been more prevalent… in more ways than just reaching the lockdown anniversary. (I still find it odd to call it an anniversary… when it’s hardly a positive thing).

Markers… landmarks… milestones. When training, they are useful – Strava letting me know my improvements as I run past the same houses, trees and bridges. Speed increasing. Sometimes not. But these past two weeks the landmarks I’ve moved past have cued the milestones in my mind.

*March 9th R U N*
An a w f u l run. Full of starts and stops and stitches. Not every run leaves me proud and pumped. My inner critic decided to coach me on this run.

*March 11th R U N*
I had some company on this run, and as we headed around the beautiful Bristol harbour, I shared my stories on the buildings, the ships, the roads that all hold so many memories of my years in this city. Where I’ve lived, where I’ve performed, where I’ve worked and of course where I’ve drank and danced into the early hours. It was strange to stop and stand on the cobbles of the now empty King Street, and regale a story for each pub. Seeing the memories flicker into life as I turned to each empty, locked up building. Seeing myself and my friends leave the grand theatre where we worked then head for a drink, our voices filling the night air, joining the audiences, the actors (and of course the hen and stag do’s) for a cider – or several! This street that has captured so many laughs, fights, and many a birthday drink…now eerily quiet… for who knows how much longer.

*March 14th R U N*
I had a pre swim run along the coastal, trail path of Clevedon on this glorious sunny, Sunday morning. As I looked over the open, expansive sea, I thought about the mammoth leaps I have made this year or so. How I’ve never felt more comfortable with my breathing. How I have trained myself to work with it. So now my breathing helps, rather than hinders me. How it is my breathe and my hardwork. I felt happy and strong. And so grateful. Then I felt very cold after “swimming” in the marina lake. More like – jump in, swear, jump out!

*March 16th R U N*
As I set out on this run. I knew this would be a milestone run. A milestone for me of a year since life shifted. Monday March 16th 2020, I ran along the bike path, feeling accomplished with where I was in my career, my mind and my heart too. Then I got the first of many calls and emails… that would start the domino effect of all my freelance work being cancelled. My tapestry of work that I had built up, getting paid to do what I love, performing, teaching, directing, writing, touring… unraveling by the hour. Followed by losing my house. And a relationship ending. A week I won’t ever forget. But I got through it. And I got through this year. Thinking about this as I ran left me feeling contemplative but strong and I finished with a pretty good time.

*March 19th R U N*
Each day this week has had moments of reflecting on the past but then the past looked right back at me in my rear view mirror. I was left with a racing heart… so raced out the door for a run. It was messy, but I didn’t let it get to me. I stopped the app, took time to call my best friend, took a wander down a woodland path and swung on a tree swing like a storybook character. Turns out that was the best thing I could have done as my run home was fierce and fast and fun! A glance at the past, made me grasp where I am now then go gratefully into my future. I’ve done so much since that chapter and I’m so thankful for my independence and freedom.

*March 21st R U N*
13.1 miles wasn’t enough! 14 miles today! It was partly a route I know, past landmarks I love but with some new roads thrown in. I was a little nervous after Friday’s mixed bag session, but if there’s a marker within myself I have learnt through my running, is that when I put my mind to it and set out knowing what I want to achieve, I can achieve it and more.

So as I cool down this running diary I end writing how I started. I know reflecting can equate to overthinking, but I’ve realised when those painful memories stick with me…they are there to remind me of how far I have come and far I can go. And with another fortnight of running entries logged, I’m starting to gear my thoughts towards my next big challenge in the Easter holidays. I worry it could be too much. A big physical demand on my body. But it could be the next milestone I need to work (and run) towards, whether I conquer it or not.


Soundtrack to this entry: Count On Me, Chase & Status, Moko

Snack for this entry: Dairy Milk, Cookies, Chocolate….lots of it these past couple weeks!