I was running up to the CIC hut today when a thought crossed my mind. Why am I doing this? It was my first run for a couple of weeks so about three quarters of the way up from where I'd left my bike my legs were starting to feel the burn. I was also fending off the last of a cold, and had just left my nice warm bed. I could still be in that bed. Drinking coffee. Or at Three Wise Monkeys climbing wall. Or sat in front of my nice open fire. Or, or...
Instead I had decided to run from sea level up to 670m. It happens often. If I have a day off, come rain or shine, I'm going for a run, and usually up a hill. If I wake up to the sound of rain pounding off my bedroom window. Oh, I know what I'll do. I'll run a lap of Cow Hill. I'll run up a mountain. I'll go smash out a set of the most hellish hill sprints. Yes, those things that you're supposed to loathe and only do because someone said they're good for you. I love them. Especially if it's raining.
Luckily today was not one of those days. It was beautiful. Cold, blue skies and no wind – perfect for a run. And yet with burning thighs and croaky chest I was wondering why. Why am I still running uphill when my legs are on fire and my chest is on fire and I can't breathe right and now I'm really hungry?? The answer that very quickly followed this question to myself was this: because the more I run up, the more I get to run down. Simple. I get to achieve my goal. I get to spend more time experiencing the thrill of flying downhill. I get to stay longer in the incredible mountain environment, running under the North Face of Ben Nevis. I get to feel free and put off going back inside that little bit longer.
Yes, it hurts. Sometimes it hurts a lot. But it's a satisfying kind of pain. One that I love and that has become a little bit addictive. Because after the pain comes the pleasure. The pleasure of reaching the summit, or the wonderful descent, or getting a faster time, or finally getting up that hill without having to stop and walk.
The best pleasures in life require the hardest work. I don't really remember any of the doughnuts I've eaten in my life – even if they were delicious at the time – but the memory of crossing the finish line of my first Mamores Half Marathon this year will never leave me. And that's because it was hard. So if that means I have to run up mountains to find that pleasure for the rest of my life then so be it. I think I can deal with that. There's certainly worse things to be addicted to. Like doughnuts.
So that's it. I run because it's hard, and because it hurts, and because sometimes it hurts so much that I want to give up and go home. I run because I know that when I don't give up, when I keep running on, when I reach the top and the pain is finally over it will feel oh so good, and oh so worth it.
As for why I have a penchant for sprinting up the same stretch of hill over and over again in the pouring rain? Beats me. That one might just be stupidity.
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Self reliance is a fundamental principle of mountaineering. By participating we accept this and take responsibility for the decisions we make. These blog posts and conditions reports are intended to help you make good decisions. They do not remove the need for you to make your own judgements when out in the hills.