I went for a run last night. Hardly worthy of comment you would think. But for someone who eats, sleeps and breathes running it is something I no longer take for granted. It was bitterly cold. And raining. And dark. Conditions that would normally keep me warm indoors. I hate being cold. I really hate being cold. But I hadn't run in days and I needed desperately to reconnect and that was the only way I knew how.
My medication suppresses my heart function. Imagine towing a tyre behind you. Except that it is a tractor tyre. That is how I feel. And I still need to keep my heartrate down so I am little more than shuffling. I can do that. I have dragged my arse up and down mountains on sheer will power. This is nothing.
I wrap myself in thermals, tights, gloves, buff and running jacket. My cap kept the rain out of my eyes. I walked to get started, allowing my heart to slowly adjust. As soon as I started to shuffle at 8min/km pace it took off. 140bpm while shuffling? I regulated my breathing and slowed even more. I could walk faster than this. It dropped but sped up immediately without provocation. My heart sank. Figuratively. What more could I do? I was going as slow as I could. I was on the meds. Bugger it. I would just push on as slow and as regulated as I could.
I could feel my heart speed up and slow down, with no correlation to my effort. But I needed to run. I needed to know that despite all of this I could still run. I wasn't dying for god sake. I needed some perspective. I have a friend who is dying of cancer. That is truly sad. My problem pales by comparison. I have another friend paralysed from the neck down. This gives perspective and a reality check. I can do this.
15 mins in and I am still yo-yoing up and down but keeping a slow steady rhythm in my running and breathing. I enter a recreational park and footballers are leaving the ground after training. The lights on the towers are still blazing away, lighting up the oval. As I run past the last tower I look up and the rain is spiraling down. The shimmering cascade is hypnotic and I run mesmerised as the rain drops fall towards me backlit in the broad beam of light. Euphoria washes over me and I reach one of those rare moments in running where I can feel nothing and nothing really matters. The sheer beauty of the moment carries me away from all my cares and I move without effort.
As I pass from the light back into the darkness the moment recedes but the experience travels with me. My shuffle feels light and I don't care how slow it is. I am running and that is all that matters.
Eventually my heartrate stabilises at a regular 120-130 bpm for most the rest of the run. I run for an hour and finish with a walk. It is a far cry from any ultra but it means nearly as much to me. We take so much for granted and so often sweat on the detail that it causes us to miss what is really going on and what is really important. Sure there is so much more to life than running. And so much more than ultras. But for me running ultras is so much of my life. I still need to feel just a little of that. However brief. However hard.