When you move house everything is new. It takes a while to get your bearings, to work out where your nearest supermarket is, how you turn the new oven on, which transport to take around the city. One of the first things I do when I arrive in a new place is to work out some running routes. I hate to admit it, but I like to run. It gives me time to think, to rearrange my head. It also fills me with those good old happy chemicals, endorphins, which I like to think makes me a more pleasant person. In all honesty though, I run because it allows me to eat as much cake as I like.
When I first started running, it used to be more of a scuttle down the road under the cover of darkness so that no one could see me. Now that I’ve improved slightly and no longer resemble Phoebe’s infamous jogging scene in Friends, I’m getting bolder as I search out routes, seeking challenge rather than ease and anonymity. On arrival in Edinburgh, Arthur’s seat was calling to me through my window, laying down the gauntlet, defying me to attempt such a feat. The sun was shining and I hadn’t been for a run in a few days. I gave in, googled a rough route plan and pulled my grotty old trainers on.
All went well for the first 25 minutes, until I began to doubt that I was still on track. Eventually I gave up on my nice circular route and went back roughly the way I had come only to find out later that I had been on the right road and had come about seven tenths of the way before I turned around. Undeterred and ever the sucker for punishment I attempted the same circular route again the next day. This time I made it further before my doubts set in and I found myself wondering if I was lost.
I once knew of a chap who, on his study-abroad year, refused through stubborn pride to ask for directions to the local supermarket. In the end, he sat out on benches, watching for streams of people with carrier bags of groceries, before following the stream in reverse to find the store. I remember thinking how silly it was that he should let his pride stop him from asking for simple directions, but now I found myself in the same position. I’ll admit this was less due to pride and more through fear that my dulcet, almost-RP tones wouldn’t be so well received in the area of town I found myself in, but all the same I continued to run on with no idea as to which roads to take or when the end would be in sight.
Eventually inspiration struck as a bus drove past me that I knew would be stopping outside my flat. Surely we were travelling in the same direction? I began to run after the bus. Of course, this was a short-lived endeavour as busses travel significantly faster than me but I soon found that Edinburgh busses are frequent enough that it wasn’t long before another bus appeared on the same route. And so I spent the final ten minutes of what was now feeling like a marathon chasing after busses in a most unseemly manner in the hope that they would guide me home.
As I ran, I thought about life and how similar it feels sometimes. I know where I’m headed – home – but I often don’t know the route or how long it will take to get there. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, it forces me to pace myself as I go, not knowing how long I need to keep going for. If I attempt a sprint finish thinking that the end is just around the corner, then I’m scuppered when it turns out that I still have several more blocks to go. Not knowing the way, or what might be around the next corner means I have to trust that some sort of direction will be provided in due time. It might not take me the whole way, but it will get me where I need for time being.