Noun: 1. The confused sound of a group of people talking simultaneously.
There is always noise. There is always dialogue. There is always anxiety. The secret is to embrace it, tame it, use it and channel it.
Come on watch just find the satellite. Do I need the toilet? No I’m fine. Shouldn’t have had that Chinese. Seriously, what was I thinking? What if I need a comfort break! Temperature feels good. Satellite found. Off we go. Steady, keep it steady. Don’t even look at the watch. New trainers feel good. I’m going. I made it out. The sun’s setting. I should get to the lake…‘I got away from where I started, money was stolen, I was spending hardy, seemed like every night there was a party...’ Another runner, what the hell, shorts and T-shirt, I’m overdressed. F**k it I’m fine’. Jesus the paths round here are crap. Knee drive, knee drive. Relax. How can the playground still be busy? Take the higher route to the steps. Steady, breathe. Drop into the park. Jesus he’s tall, ohh no, he’s on a bike. Why is he wearing sunglasses?...Nod. ‘I’m only human, I’m only – i’m only- I’m only human, Maybe I’m foolish, Maybe I’m blind...’. Why do I always accelerate down the lakeside path? Keep it steady. Chest feels okay. Aim for 6, 7 is a bonus. If it isn’t working so what. It’s busy. It’s light! Stop, take a pic. 1.45 miles. Shit, it’s muddy. Why do I hate trainers getting mucky? Okay this is beautiful. Knee drive, breathing. Of road is going to be tougher. What’s paradise to me? Good question…‘Where is the moment when we needed the most? You kick up the leaves, and the magic is lost, They tell me your blue sky's faded to gray, They tell me your passion's gone away, And I don't need no carrying on’… How can he run wearing that? He’s usually in the early morning crowd, maybe he runs twice a day? Shit, muddy trainers. I love this lake. Breathing feels good. Knee drive. Form is okay. Ducks on the path. Nod to the dog walkers. Okay two dogs, that’s a bloody big husky. Light is fading. 6 lads walking round the lake. Dodgy! What’s that smell? Pot. Why is she walking round the lake on her own in huge headphones? Knee drive, relax. Feeling good. 4 miles! What happened to 3, I missed the buzz, maybe there wasn’t a buzz. Dog walkers again, nod, see you next lap. Knee drive. Drink. Shit, night vision is crap and I can’t see my feet properly. Drop the pace keep it going. 7 is a bonus. Paradise. What’s my paradise? Such a good question. Hmmm not that song, forward it. Better. So need to plan tomorrow. 6 miles, target, boom. A mile to home. Steps, shit that’s a lot of steps. Breathing, knee drive, steady. Stop, breathe. Push for home. What’s the blue light round the car, ohhh it’s a dog’s collar. That’s cool. Home stretch. Control the pace, don’t go to early. Crappy path again. Push the slope. Pace. Breathing. Final push. Knee drive, knee drive, knee drive Home.
I’ve realised it can’t be done. It’s utterly futile. Trying to capture the noise that’s in my head as I run is like trying to write The Iliad with chalk. So why bother? Because the noise is a massive part of my run and it’s a part I’ve learnt to understand, channel and ultimately tame.
When I first started running I soon realised, for a while at least, the noise subsided. But the respite was short-lived lasting ONLY for the duration of the run. I ran with anger, with weight loss in mind, with performance in mind, with my father in mind. I ran for him. I wanted him to be proud of me. I wanted to have something to talk about. But this is totally and utterly unsustainable. Because my motivation was running for something and someone else I began to resent the run. The run became a ritual and a chore. If I missed a session it would accentuate my anxiety not because I missed the endorphins but because missing the run fed the noise. It empowered the noise. It reinforced every negative anxiety driven moment. In an attempt to compensate for the resentment, I began to focus externally. I used distraction as a tool. I used music, the environment, the route. I ran using anger and frustration as fuel. I replayed past events over and over again using the energy. I didn’t listen to my body at all. I ran in fear. I ran to keep the noisy beast inside quiet.
Over time my running suffered. Motivation is essential to any activity, but so is passion. Without passion and a desire to do the activity for the activities sake disillusionment is inevitable. A very wise friend once said to me ‘Do a job you love and you’ll never work a day in your life’. These words were said to me in 1994. Paula, you were right.
The problem was the running ‘style’ I adopted was holding me back. I was reinforcing and feeding all the negative thoughts I was using running to beat. This was a battle I couldn’t win. Until I read a book. This makes it sound incredibly simple but realising I was going backwards I turned to reading about motivating and the head space of running. One book changed everything. To be more exact it was actually one paragraph.
‘...intrinsic motivation is motivation that comes from within. Intrinsically motivated individuals engage in activities that interest them, and they engage in them freely, with a sense of personal control. There is no sense of engaging in the activity for a material reward. Intrinsic motivation is little more than taking part in an interesting activity simply because of love for the activity...’
‘The Resilient Runner’ by William Peters, is a truly outstanding book. It opened my eyes to a totally new way of running. Yes, there are chapters about goal setting, visualising, positive reinforcement etc but critically it helped me realise that my motivation was all wrong.
Initially the thought of running intrinsically petrified me. For so long I had relied on my distraction techniques to get me through. Techniques I now see as being used through my adolescence and beyond. Dont look at the bogeyman and he’ll disappear. But as I engaged with the concept understood the specific mental states outlined in the book the change was exponential. Critically I started running ran for me. I was setting the agenda. I started to gain control. Don’t get me wrong, the 5am get up in the depth of winter doesn’t get ‘intrinsically’ easier but 5 minutes in and I’m smiling.
The noise is still there. I don’t know if it’s part of my anxiety or if it’s the same for everybody. I thought silence was a permanent high pitched whistle until my hearing aid replaced it with a much more welcome white noise. For that matter I thought birds didn’t sing until I wore the aid for the first time. I still find running races difficult. Maybe it’s the sheer volume of distractions, the crowds, my fellow runners, my own expectations. However I do find a pair of sunglasses helps. I can see why horses need blinkers.
I think I would miss the noise if it disappeared completely. It is both the destructive and the creative part of me – there, I’ve said it. It’s part of me. It’s the babble.