Alison Cowling

Alison Cowling

Director | Actor | Musician | Writer

Running and Need

The twelfth entry of The Running Diaries, a much needed venture through the woods and up hills…

This has maybe been the toughest diary entry to start. Around six weeks has since passed from my last running challenge and it feels like so much has happened. Each week bringing a new change, with running falling into the background… this Running Diary lost somewhere beyond that.

A mix of runs over a mix of weeks. I have racked my brain on runs and on the sofa over what to write about… how to pinpoint and tie all the different days I seem to have had recently. Change is well and truly upon us. And a new social life and pressure to go back to normality has left me exhilarated at times… exhausted at others.

And I’ve been busy reading too, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami and “Jog On: How Running Saved My Life” by Bella Mackie, both giving me some inspiring notions and interesting standpoints on what running can do for physical health but actually how much more it can do for mental health. It was intimidating how both writers cleverly weave their running experiences in with their lives; talking about how they use the routine of running and the self-confidence it can build, to help change their approaches to situations in life. I definitely recommend these books as much as I recommend running!

So as it has been a long time of no diary entry, I’m going to capture the past 6 weeks running highlights, like a race photographer snapping away at sweaty, smelly racers!

The gentle week…

A week of easy runs post the 10x2x3 Challenge which I decided to not track on Strava. It was nice to have a bit of a break from religiously recording every step and just run again for fun, listening to how far and how often my body wanted to go.

The confusing week…

This week began with a little unease setting in… a little confusion. It was back to work, back to routine but feeling like something was missing… questions were starting to form in my mind and I was left totally lost about how to get the answers I needed… maybe it was the feeling of need that was leaving me uneasy.

So I let this uneasy energy lead me out the door, not knowing where I was going or for how long. It turned into a 10k hilly trail run. I came across many a steep hill and drove myself forward, or should I say upwards. My brain trying to untie the gradually forming knot of uneasiness in my stomach by pushing my legs uphill. People often say my face reveals all… helpful as an actor, (after shows it’s become common for my face to be called elastic haha) so I dread to think what contorted, fiery, anguished look I have as I reach the top of a steep, sharp incline. But then I hardly dread it as I don’t care about what I look like, I’m too busy trying to do it!

A very different kind of training run on Thursday – a short run to the park, a pre run pint with Lily followed by a 5k with Hattie, then a post run pint with Alex!

Sunday morning came around and the pit of my stomach felt like a cauldron. The uneasiness had been bubbling away inside all week and now the steam had risen up and was trying to engulf my mind… so I knew I needed a long run to clear my thoughts. A half marathon later, with lots of Lizzo playing to remind me that ‘I’m my own Soulmate’, I regained some strength and direction to go into a new week.

The overwhelming week…

Though that feeling didn’t stick around long, the post half glow very quickly fading into a week left without answers, a tough time at work and pure physical exhaustion leaving me napping so much and fairly low mileage. Friday night came and I took to an easy, solo trail run, to explore new woods, hoping that discovering new paths might lead to some change in my mood.

The resurfacing week…

Sticking on ‘Whip My Hair’ by Willow on a post work 8 miler this week, certainly got me feeling back in the zone, with running, work and life. It left me as fierce as Roxxy’s season 5 wig reveal 😛 As I was resurfacing from the cloud I’d been sat under, I headed out on a run with my mate Tom (realising I am such a slow runner compared to his pace) and a small coastal run before a super cold dip in the Clevedon marina lake to well and truly wake the bones up!

The joyful week…

Finding fun on my runs this week, with a some kind of sprint training (basically just running to fast songs in the rain 😛 ) and heading out around my favourite loop for May’s half. I let the pressure of time go, as I had to stop and take some important calls midway… leaving me with the feeling of a busy working woman in the city…a high flyer, sorting my shit, with a Frappicino in one hand, a Macy’s bag in the other, the kids with their sitter, their father too busy playing golf to see them, meanwhile I’m dealing with some major deadlines at work (My assistant’s no good!) , what’s the time in Hong Kong? Someone get me a white wine Spritzer and a spa weekend with the girls….

😛

The 5k week…

A week of 5k’s to run for fun, to run off worry and a nice run with my sister… in which she beat me at the end, showing off her sprint finish!

The last week of term…

Made it to the last week of term, very much excited for a week off and I set my sights on a new big challenge for half term. Had some super short and sweet runs – and a lush catch up run with my mate, Emma. Starting to save the miles up, for some serious miles next week…

And time to stretch…

So this running diary I have felt anxious to write as my focus has drifted so very much. I do want to get back to writing regularly, I’ve very much been inspired by my reads this past month, but maybe some time focusing on other things was what I needed.

When you are left without answers and feel uneasy about the future, the result is need. A state of needing to know how things will pan out to settle the worry. The need is legitimate but my worry of needing can take hold. I fear being seen as needy, yet I know deep down it’s not true. Unlearning that need is not a bad thing has been an important practice. And that running for so many miles on my own, reminds me I am far from what the past’s negative people perceived me as.

And after reading Murakami and Mackie’s books it’s clear that runners are drawn to the activity, for a much greater need than just to get fit. The need to clear the thoughts and let the unease subside. My running will always remind me I’m a strong badass, not a needy woman but a normal human with needs. Sometimes my runs meet those needs… and sometimes you need others to meet them. When they don’t it can leave you lost, so instead I know I can lean into my own stride. And if the direction is not clear, the pathway not obvious, I will get to point B – even if it’s not what it looked like when I left point A.

The past six weeks has taught me a lot. On occasion I need rest, at moments I need fun, it’s okay when I need answers, and at times I need direction. And I will often if not always, need to run.

Soundtrack to this entry: A Spotify playlist called Love Yourself, providing some great tunes…

Snack for this entry: Camomile Tea

Read for this entry: “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running” by Haruki Murakami and “Jog On: How Running Saved My Life” by Bella Mackie

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