Interiority in the landscape: using running to create space inside my head

Photo of sunrise over a field pathWhen I discovered that I love running it wasn’t because of the actual movement. It took me over 6 months to be able to jog gently and over a year to actually run. What I did enjoy straight away as being outside, moving through the landscape at my own pace and having time to get to know my thoughts within it. Over the past 18 months it’s become part of my everyday to head outside, mostly in the mornings, to get that time with myself  in the world that surrounds me.

Last weekend I went for a run in the fields, surrounded by butterflies and bees and listening to the sound of thousands of insects busily enjoying the sunshine. It felt like running through summer.

I try and take a picture each time, and I can track the seasons as well as my occasional encounters with cats, deer and other wildlife as the years goes on. It’s good to feel the seasons and the weather, even if that sometimes means getting very wet indeed. Running gives me time to reflect and put my own thoughts into perspective, to feel connected to the world around me and the landscape.

As the weather changes I have to adjust, putting on more layers (lots of them), going more slowly and adjust where I go as paths become wet or icy. When it’s cold running dominates my senses more. I love the moments when the whole world is silent and all I can hear is the sound of my own footsteps. Having read a lot of anthropological theories about the relationship between human beings and their landscapes it sometimes feel like I am reclaiming that relationship for myself, on my own two feet,  and with it a sense of context and belonging.

I take my running with me whenever I can on my travels and I have discovered places I visit for work on foot, but while it still feels rewarding it’s not the same. There isn’t as much time for thought when you have to check a map or get up an unexpected hill.

As I have become a better runner and as the distance I can cover increases, the rewards of heading outside have become greater. There is more to discover, more to observe and more time to feel the sun (or rain or wind) on my skin. I now enjoy the occasional burst of speed, and I’ve discovered that being organised, an early riser and self motivated are all really helpful when it comes to this hobby. Yet it’s the sense of moving and thinking in the landscape, of being part of the world and feeling it through my feet and seeing, smelling – sensing the seasons change, that gets me out of the door.