You are going for a run now?

You are going for a run now?

You are awake but not moving, it's early and no one else is stirring. In half an hour it will be time to start running so the ritual of preparation begins. Still warm under the duvet so no point getting out into a cold room yet just start to engage the brain and muscles a little first. Shoes, shorts and keys etc. are where you set them out the night before so from bed to door is as smooth as possible and there is no opportunity to rethink the sense of going.

Then, like a guilty lover, you attempt to slip from the bed and out the door without raising the alarm. Sometimes it works and you hear a satisfying click of the door without any follow up noises from the house. Time to commune with the running gods and break new ground along old pathways, the first footprint of the day in snow, mud or sand, breaking through the spiders nighttime weaving and enjoying the animals moment to ignore just one human running. You get back fully enriched and satisfied that the day is set up well. But on other days it doesn't go so well. Your movements arouse a child or partner who either wants you to stay or at least is now awake before they planned, the click of the door becomes far less satisfying and you know that your return may not be so welcome and the run has a less mindful state.

Anyone who lives in a shared house where others do not run will know these patterns all too well. The plaintive question, you're going for a run now? As you attempt to slide some shoes on or the same question in the evening as you set out some trainers in that barely communicative way of trying to get the message out without words. For some reason, working late or travelling for work causes far less guilt and negotiation then a hobby. Busy with work is somehow morally upstanding and diligent whereas busy doing something that is clearly just self indulgent just doesn't cut it in the same way. Perhaps our relationships already have the work thing assigned into the social contract alongside shared fun and shared sacrifice.

When our first child was born the social contract has some rewriting to do and all parties work their way through it on minimal sleep. I would fully admit that I struggled with changing roles and requirements. Where my wife and her mother seemed assured in their tasks and roles, I grappled with inadequacy and fatigue in equal measure. How on earth could I justify going for a run during this time or getting a full nights sleep when others suffered. The questions and guilt were all my own and my wife didn't impose terms but of course I often felt she had and by setting that in my mind my own negative thoughts and resistance made it so. If you walk into the house after a run ready to face the anger of those in the house you will surely find it.

How long are you going to be? A perfectly reasonable question when you think about it but fraught with nuance and over interpretation. Best not to under predict is all I have learned and two hours of coffee is not part of a training run and should be clarified. Given the nature of what you are doing there is a good chance you can be extremely accurate in your response.

I loved the days when I managed to get back in the house before anyone has woken up. You've been for a run already? Perfect...or is it. Aren't you just creating greater secrecy and also running the risk that you are operating in a different time zone. It’s Friday night, the dinner party is in full swing and instead of switching to the frozen limoncello, you opt for some water in readiness for the long Sunday run. That is not really mindfulness or living the moment is it. Of course, in places like Dubai, the running window each day is pretty small so that hour around sunrise becomes a precious slot.

By the way, at the end of this, there isn't some helpful summary of how to do this right because there isn't a right way. I just know how many parts of it I get wrong. One thing I have come to terms with is that for whatever reason, I am a better person to have around if I have been for a run. Perhaps that is the classic justification of all addictions but guilt is unlikely to help, do it or don't do it but don't waste time feeling bad about it.

I suppose a key transition point often comes when the running starts as a targeted event. I am doing all this training because I have entered a marathon in three months time. So now it’s not fun but constructed as a kind of work duty. This way discussions go more easily at first but after the third event you have to own up to the fact that your not just doing it for the races and you may actually just be a runner with all that comes with it.

When I first started laying out kit the night before, it had nothing to do with negotiating with anyone else, I just wanted to make sure I didn't give myself any reason to back out. If its dark, cold and wet outside, you don't want to debate whether you should go for a run or not or even how far you go. You decide the night before and then execute. So again, a simple method of self motivation can communicate other messages.

Of course in some houses everyone runs. This is now how national sports coaches like to operate. They encourage athletes to live together where routines are upheld collectively. The monastic setup in Iten has benefited from this for a long time. In normal households this does bring a whole new challenge where if you don't get out first, you might have to wait your turn.

In my own household something new has developed. The children around whose rota running needed to adapt, have become runners too and on some very lucky weekends, parenting and racing combine. This weekend, I even managed to persuade my eldest daughter to do a shared track session in my continued pursuit of a faster 800. We agreed the night before, set a time and got kit ready. Despite the morning rain, the was no renegotiating and we got to enjoy a shared training session at the track...until it became clear that I couldn't keep up with her for even one lap.