Back In 2004 Sean Bean played Odysseus in the epic Troy. Early in the film emissaries were sent to find him and ask for his assistance. Following a brief exchange Odysseues agrees to help with a parting line “I’ll miss my dogs”.
In February I became ill. Following a brief stay in hospital the diagnosis ended up being Influenza B and an infected lung. The road to recovery has been long and is, given how I currently feel, far from over. I am having blood tests every fortnight to determine why my haemoglobin count is low. Thankfully my doctor is a) excellent and b) a decent rower so when I say, ‘I’m a good minute of my usual pace’, he gets it. Last month I ran a total of 26 miles which equated to just 4 runs. When I have the energy to get out, like this morning, it seems to take me significantly longer to recover than it should.
Of course, everything is relative and keeping a sense of perspective is important – not easy – but important. This morning I ran a 10k in 54 minutes and two weeks ago the Edinburgh Half Marathon in 2:05.
Yes, being unable to run has been frustrating. Yes, I’m concerned about what’s going on but interestingly it’s not the physical aspect of running that I miss and it’s actually not the obvious positive effect it has on my mental health. Given almost all of my runs are solo, it’s not even the social aspect. It’s the creativity.
I’m no writer. I don’t understand the rules of grammar, nor spelling. I barely understand sentence structure. I read and I admire quality writing, or at least an engaging story – but none of these qualities I possess. What I do, is design. I create. Critically my entire design career, which spans 22 years, is based on the premise that my physical sketchbook does not come into play until the mental sketches are complete and right now the mental sketching is stunted.
When I’m running something happens. In the past I used to think of it as my mind shutting down. I was blocking the ‘stuff’ from the day but I’ve come to realise that this isn’t the case and here again it comes down to a sense of perspective. My mind isn’t shutting down, its waking up. The creative part of my mind clearly enjoys the activity of running. Maybe it’s the level of focus required, maybe it’s the lack of distractions or maybe it’s the rhythmic motion. Perhaps it’s the music or the heightened sense of self belief I feel during and after a run.
When I’m running I don’t doubt my creativity. I see the problem in my head, I see the pathway to a solution. I see every aspect of the task at the same time, from beginning to end. I see sequences, I see the snippets of code all interacting.
I knew a composer once who lived with an almost crippling level of OCD. Everything had to be ‘just so’ and in this ‘Just so’ state he would create. Or rather he would sit, quite still for hours on end seemingly without purpose. However, in his head he would write entire compositions. He would see every note, every instrument, every nuance blending seamlessly to create his masterpiece. His work was breath-taking and even more so if you were allowed an insight into the process behind it.
I’m not writing a masterpiece anytime soon – but clearly this isn’t just me.
Creativity is a funny old thing and any designer (I’ve worked in the industry in one guise or another for 20+ years) will tell you creativity is 99% perspiration 1% inspiration and that inspiration usually occurs when you AREN’T fully engrossed in the problem. Maybe therefore running is nothing more that the ultimate distraction? Running is anti-engrossing?
I’ve come to realise of late the ‘something missing’ from my daily make up isn’t running. It’s the beautiful add-ons that make running such a unique experience. Naturally, I hope I will soon regain my health and return to running and in doing so will find that place where creativity knows no bounds but for now I’m grateful. Without a break I would never have known where I creatively flourish.
And if I can’t run? Or if my illness curtails my running to once a week. What then?
Then I’ll miss my dogs.
What do you miss when you don't run? Thanks to Brett as always for an insightful blog.
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