How to clear your head – run 100k

How to clear your head – run 100k

It is always a struggle to come up with a starting point when I write anything. It should just be the first thing that comes into my head, but there’s never just one thing in my head, and by the time I’ve started to think about something I could use, there’s ten other ones I could use. Then sometimes I try to be too clever and that doesn’t work either. This is a pain in the arse. So today, I’m just starting with something that could go nowhere. But it won’t – it will go somewhere.

Right now I am thinking about when I used to live in California and was jealous of someone, possibly a chap called Steve, but maybe not, who got to go to a Police concert and I was not allowed. I remember way too much stuff, and sometimes I am wrong about what I remember, but I am fairly sure of this one. When I say “sometimes”, I mean like one in a hundred odds of being wrong. I store way too much shit upstairs. It was probably the concert at the Oakland Coliseum on 10th September, 1983, but I can’t be sure of that.

I started off trying to be really clever about writing the first post on the blog for a long time. I am a total geek, so I was writing out a decision tree about whether or not you were trying to look for something in life. This content was going to be all clever and shit and delve down into metaphysics and stuff, but I got distracted. Probably by a fly or a car driving by, but then that would make me a dog. Then again, I might have been in an earlier life; but I would have preferred to be an eagle. Or a lion. Kind of a moot point really as I don’t believe in reincarnation. I think I actually went and made a cup of coffee and lost my train of thought.

I don’t really actually ever lose my train of thought, I just have multiple tracks running at the same time. My brain is always moving at a million miles an hour and it needs things to latch onto in order to slow it down a little. Usually, my mind is full of lots of panicky bad things and I’m catastrophising every thing that could ever happen to me, but that’s something for another occasion (this is one of the totally shit things about my bipolar).

You see, just in writing the word train above, I started thinking of “This Train is Bound for Glory” with Mumford and Sons, Old Crow Medicine Show and Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. Rarely is there ever just one track playing at any one time. Every now and then, when all the planets align, I do start to hone in on this magical Zen like state. But that’s something I’ll get to below.

Although these tracks seem to be a million miles apart, there is usually a crossing of the tracks that has triggered the link. I’m already thinking of music which I was really into when I was younger, I’m then thinking about the San Francisco Bay Area which I grew up close to when I was a kid and then the word “train” comes into the mix. 

“This Train is Bound for Glory” is the climax song of Big Easy Express, a film which follows those three bands as they travel to New Orleans from San Francisco. So there’s a link to music and The Bay Area between the tracks. Spurious, but my mind is always looking for spurious. I’ve now also listened to half the tracks off Synchronicity (the Police’s last album); including Walking in Your Footsteps and King of Pain, This Train is Bound for Glory and finally Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show whilst writing this.

The last band being a blues, country, folk type ensemble which gives a hint of one of my guilty pleasures – this is one of my favourite types of music. I picked up this type of music habit when I had my first job working for a mail order music company in Marlow and we had to listen to every genre (and write about it sometimes). That’s a weight and a half off my mind. Phew. Marlow came into my thoughts this week for another reason. See below.

Getting back to these intersections then. The decision tree approach was me just trying to put down on paper something that I had a bright shining light moment about this week. For years I was not really looking for anything. It was not as if I thought my life was complete, it was just that I did not spare any time to think about why I’d lost passion for so many things (please note to avoid the likelihood of death, this does not include my wife). I have had a lot going on. After time for family, renovating the house, work, mental health issues etc…there has been little room for anything else. My wife has been on at me to start playing golf with my mates again. This is probably to just get me out of the house (in particular when I am moody), but also to give me something that is “me” time again.

I’ve been clearing out the shed this week to make more room in the basement for working out; in particular so I can use the rowing machine down there. In the shed are the clubs that my mate Gar lent me so that I could start going down the driving range to practice and get back into it. This week I actually picked up a wedge and had a few practice swings on the lawn, and it was at that moment I finally realised I had not included my passions in life for some time.

Beginning to realise what has been missing is not something that has come about by chance. Being able to stop and think is something I generally don’t have the luxury of, but as I have started running further and further recently I have started to be able to get to my seemingly unachievable Zen-like state and have realised there is a load of shit that I should be doing to distract from work/bad thoughts etc…

Last weekend I took on the Thames Path 100k challenge (it’s not a race, and should not be confused with the Centurion TP100 which is 100 miles!). I am not sure if all the planets were aligned as the night sky was not clear at all, but I did experience the following:

  • Fear of missing the start and having to go home
  • Fear of failure at the start about not being able to run from Putney to Henley
  • Panic about forgetting everything at the start line
  • Panic about going off too quickly
  • Everyone I talked to on the first half thinking I was a twat
  • Panic about injury (ok – this was valid as my feet and calf were screwed already before the start)
  • Forgetting my bone headphones, but did have my fall-back in-ear buds and listened to my old times running playlist
  • Running in heat that California would have been proud of
  • Running with Damian Tinsley on the first half which is always a fantastic distraction – great chap
  • My buds ran out so I had to just rely on my head for entertainment on the second half of the race
  • Chatting with some amazing people on the way round – especially the chap running for CALM and the very tall French chap who is working in Congo (Brazzaville)
  • Running along the Thames and passing the pubs on the river I used to frequent when I first moved to London
  • Focussing on just keeping moving because of the intense heat. If I stopped for over 30 seconds I stood every chance of giving up
  • Starting the second half 50k and realising that very few people were doing this. Gulp
  • Realising that I would be running on my own for much of the race into the night
  • When the heat of the day gave way to the cool night air and I was running on my own, I had nothing left in my head to think about as my thoughts were spent
  • Given the five foot visibility with the river fog, my main focus was on not falling in the river (almost happened)
  • Thoughts in my head were jarred by observations on my surroundings and not niggly little panic bombs
  • There are beautiful people in this world like Tara Horgan who turned up with Ali to open the gate for me in Bourne End x
  • Chatting to almost everyone at the night rest stops about the rugby results
  • I got to run by the end of Mum’s road and see Mum, Kerry and Jimmy. I loved this so much. The last time I stumbled along that part of the Thames and was that wobbly, I was 16 and pissed 😁
  • By the time I hit 86k (approx) and ran/walked down Mill Road and cut through to The Two Brewers in Marlow I was reliving my youth and smiling at random (Pub Golf)
  • I cried when I was running the final stretch into Henley about what I was about to achieve; and just because I could cry
  • I had flashbacks of what I could remember about the nights of my youth in The Angel on Bridge when I crossed over Henley Bridge
  • Euphoria that I had just run 100k in one go
  • Having my beautiful wife meet me at the finish line at 2am, which was four hours later than expected because of the heat!

Fear and panic at the start had gone, being replaced by meandering nothingness. I didn’t know what “mushin no shin” was before I started writing this, but it is a Zen expression meaning the mind without mind and is also referred to as the state of “no-mindness”.

This is why I run. And as it turns out, I have a passion for music and golf as well.

And, apologies to my wife, I am going to try the 100 miler next year.

Oh, and The Police thing started off with tyring to remember a track from Synchronicity. Just a random thought, and I’ve just lost two hours of my life writing random shit 😁


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