Alison Cowling

Alison Cowling

Director | Actor | Musician | Writer

Running and Presence

The sixth entry of The Running Diaries, taking one step at a time…

As the term was coming to an end at work and all was winding down ready for half term…I found I was left with excess energy to get outside and push myself on my runs. Maybe it was the anxiety of knowing my routine was going to change with a week off work and having no where to go that meant this week felt like it was building up in some strange way. Feeling like I was climbing to the top with no way to get back down.

And now coming to write this diary entry, I’ve had a few days of low mood and no motivation. So as I write, I’m going to try and stay present, listen to what my mind wants to do and just write an update of last weeks ventures without too much inner critic judgement.


Monday evening’s run, I started strong and fast – keen to start pushing my speed this week. A few minutes in and my bestie called, so I challenged myself to keep the conversation going whilst running. It was tough but really fun. I felt like the videos of Miley and Lizzo singing on a treadmill! …That will be the next challenge. Anyone got a treadmill they could lend me?


Wednesday evening’s run was a beautifully, icy, chilly run. Gloves were a must. Once I had adjusted to the temperature I started enjoying the dry, lighter evening and my mind began to wonder with thoughts. Listening to musical theatre songs, I found myself dreaming about the theatre again; memories of touring shows in my past life as an actor musician (feels so past now 🙁 ) and the ache for the future when we can sit in an audience or stand on a stage and sing to a buzzing crowd…then all of a sudden I reached the duck pond. And stopped. The whole pond was frozen. It snapped me back to the present. Brought me out of my day dreaming and I looked as birds sat still on the ice…patiently waiting for it to melt so they could return to the water underneath. Seemed similar to how I felt. I could linger on the past but that wouldn’t stop the ice from being there. I could dream about the future but that wouldn’t melt the ice any quicker. All I can I do is stay in the present. (Or get a hair dryer).


On Friday afternoon’s run, I set out listening. My mind drifting back to this idea of being present on a run, determined to practice presence, knowing this might really help my training. I set out with no real route in mind but listening to my body, knowing the moments I could push it to keep pace alongside a cyclist, or get up ‘NineTree Hill’ one of the steepest hills in Bristol, or to keep focused past some men who enjoyed commenting and mocking me as I ran past (that’s nothing new of course.) And being present also meant that with a mile to go before home with the sun still lingering and my body starting to ache, I decided to stop. I checked and I had got a silver medal on Strava for a new 10k record which was great! But so was wandering slowly and gently back home.


Happy Valentines to me! I smashed out a 10k pb – 56min 26sec! I set out again with no plan on where or how far to go, just listening to how much energy I had and during the run realised I could keep pushing my pace up and up! I saw the distance I was on and put pedal to the metal in the last mile or so, looping my house to try to make sure I hit 10k (As I was measuring in miles and couldn’t remember the conversion!)

I thought I was going to struggle to write this weeks blog as a theme wasn’t springing to mind. But I knew my strongest moments on these runs was when I listened to my body. When I stayed present. That’s when I knew I had it in me to push for a PB, or push on up that steep hill, or just stop before reaching home and choosing to walk the last mile back. I know moving forward trying to train my mind to stay in the present will help. But it’s going to take a lot of practising. So better keep running.


Soundtrack to this entry: ‘Let’s Go, Calvin Harris (Feat. Ne-Yo) – A song to get that pace up! (And maybe inspired by The Masked Singer 😛 )

Snack for this entry: …Chips again!