The early bird catches the worm (but the second mouse gets the cheese)

For the last ten years at least, I have been a morning person. Not the sort that leaps out of bed at 5am, vacuums the house and insists everyone else is up – I’m probably much more irritating than that. I am likely to get up at 5am to go for a long run instead.
I used to hate running in the morning. It was vile. It felt so different to running at the end of the day. My muscles felt awful and it felt like nothing in my body belonged to me at all. Fast-forward five years and running in the morning became a necessity – if I didn’t run in the morning, I didn’t run at all. Slowly my body adjusted and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s my morning jump start. Some people have coffee, I go for a run. A day without it feels weird like I’ve forgotten my trousers. This has never really happened, though I did walk to school in my slippers once.
As you’ll know from the last installment of my truly riveting blog, my life has changed a bit recently and I generally go for a run as and when everything allows it – day or night. To say my body is all over the shop would be an understatement. It’s definitely quantity over quality at the moment but it is what it is and I wouldn’t change it for the world. Recently I have found myself having to run in the evening and it is challenging on many fronts. The first is the morning-running-for-15-years effect. I’m so used to getting out early and spending the rest of the day seemingly relaxed knowing it was all out of the way, that getting motivated to go out is pretty difficult. Second is the hit-and-miss levels of energy and all-over-the-shop consistency. Third is the time that it takes out of my evening and pushes everything back so I have to eat later and then feel groggy the next day. All of this is easily beaten though by the overall feeling of accomplishment if I persevere and am rewarded by the rush of endorphins later upon completion.

As summer is now over and autumn has arrived, and the nights drawing in, it will gradually get interesting, shall we say, in terms of evening running. For now, I’m making the most of working from home and having daylight still at five PM. Last week, I had a late meeting cancelled which meant I had an hour free at the end of the day. I jumped into the car and drove a few miles up the road and did a nice early evening 10k loop around my local (and growing favourite) hill. It felt great to be out and pushing myself up the two mile climb to the top when usually I’d be still in my chair trying to finish for the day.

It really is a perfect meditative way to round the day off. I always feel that way about trail running in a way that differs to road running, and even walking. The speed of moving over uneven ground, head down, picking the next foot placement requires a unique concentration that excludes most other thoughts. It does mean though that quite often sights that you’d see when walking, are missed. There is no other way though of getting the best of both worlds, bridging footpaths and running, as I have discovered with my long distance path excursions in the last two years.

Like most things in life, this kind of experience is unique to a slim period of time each year, and I try to make the most of it. Quite simple, but the best things are.

New horizons

Life is a funny thing. I’ve always believed that every little thing happens for a reason. It’s not always obvious at the time but quite often it creates a chain reaction of events that leads to a more definite conclusion. My life has taken a few twists and turns and has been shaped by events and people and it’s funny how these things change you and how much you allow them to change you.

The biggest event that’s ever happened to me occurred five weeks ago. At a relatively later-than-expected stage of my life, I became a dad. This explains the relatively quiet activity on the writing and adventure front. I’ve still been getting out and doing bits but understandably scaled back over the last nine months or so, so I can be around if needed.

With the events that are shaping the world this year, events that I never thought I’d see, that were a antiquated thing of the past, have had me thinking from day one about what the future holds for my son. I soon realised that he, like me, will have no control over countries and world leaders, but it’s a concern all the same. I began to think of all the ways that I can steer his life in the best direction in order to ensure he has the best childhood and the tools to see him through his formative years and adulthood. I will lead him along the same path that has served me so well throughout my life, and that is the path that embraces nature, the outdoors and all things uncomplicated.

It’s the best I can do for him as a parent and even if, like many, he strays when he’s older, he can always return to the path when he’s ready. That’s effectively what’s happened to me over the years with hobbies that I involved myself in through my own dad and inevitably grew out of because they weren’t seen as trendy, and now I find myself drawn to them as clearly they made a lasting impression on me and it’s a link through to my uncomplicated and thoroughly magical childhood as well as my own dad.

My head these days is filled with the magic of watching my son develop every day and I feel the sometimes overwhelming wave of responsibility wash over me and pull me out to the sea of uncertainty but then I ground myself with the simple mantra that I know what I’m doing as I’ve got the blueprints that I’ve drawn myself with my own life and experiences. I know that his formative years will be full of days out, walks, nature immersion, laughter, music and unconditional love. I’m sure, like me, he’ll be grateful for it even if it is eventual, not immediate.

I look around me and see so many kids living a life that I don’t want for him. When he’s old enough to make his own life choices then so be it, but I definitely am not going to be a hands-off parent, just sticking him in front of a screen for hours a day or even hiding behind a screen myself so he feels second best. There are so many things that are damaging to ourselves and people around us that are accepted as normal. I always say that just because we can do something, it doesn’t mean that we should do it. 24-hour fast food restaurants for example. Is it healthy to have a burger and chips at 3am? Or as often as you like? No of course not and just because the opportunity exists, its not an endorsement for a healthy lifestyle. Mental health gets a lot of exposure these days and there’s advice everywhere about getting help, but it doesn’t tell you how to avoid the obvious traps in the first place. Prevention is better than a cure basically. How many more studies do I need to read about the overwhelming benefits of being outdoors, exercising, eating healthily versus the effect of blue light from screens, the anxiety brought on by social media, and the damaging nature of the everything-now expectation from media consumption? It’s a no-brainer to me really and this is what I intend to teach my son, that none of it is real. What’s real is true human interaction, filling your senses with touch and sound and being thoroughly present.

Going back to the point of everything happening for a reason, it feels like everything I have been through and have learnt is my experience in order to pass it on to him (and anyone else tuned in to listen). I have people in my life that have been lucky enough to have that available to them but have chosen the path of least resistance, which as we know, only leads one way. A quote from a famous song goes something like ‘be careful whose advice you buy, but be patient with those who supply it’ and it rings true here.

I’m looking forward to fulfilling my new purpose as for years it’s felt like I haven’t had one. Long days ahead learning from one another and teaching him things to give him the magic and wonder that I felt in my early years, and sometimes still do, especially now I have someone to experience it with.

In the meantime, if anyone has any advice or experiences they’d like to pass on, it would be gratefully received!