I’m so high right now. Really beautifully I-don’t-really-care-about-anything high. Although it’s 3 pm, on a Wednesday and the construction guys outside our office have started up their jackhammers, I could not be less bothered.
I got a ‘fix’ at around lunch time when I strolled to the change room and swapped my jeans and collared shirt for an old T-shirt and bright red Liverpool shorts (Hey Brendan! If you need a backup goalie I’m willing to negotiate wages.) before embarking on my journey to the centre of the ‘fix’.
First down the five flights of stairs that separate us from the construction-ridden street bellow, briefly stopping at the finger-scanner before bolting like a student headed to an all-you-can-eat buffet.
IN THE BEGINNING getting my running ‘fix’ is a mental jolt.
Office workers are used to moving slowly and unless your boss regularly throws stuff at you, the average office worker is not used to rapidly approaching objects. As such, the midday Zombies, with their cellphone staring tendencies, made the initial part of my run a challenge.
It’s a lot like waking up in the morning. Your legs feel a little bit sluggish and you want it to be over soon, but after a few minutes the crowds thinned out, my legs found their running rhythm and my body journeyed beyond its comfort zone.
One of the great advantages of running through a city is that you discover things: old buildings, interesting looking coffee shops, areas where homeless people gather. For every two parts exercise in this endorphin-inducing recipe, add one part adventure and then get baked in the process.
I STARTED RUNNING at work, because my daily runs around where I stay in Milnerton had become boring.
It wasn’t always this way. In the summer I would arrive home and immediately start by going for a run along the beach. Chasing endorphins, while watching the sun disappear over Table Bay and counting the number of ships that were waiting to enter the port.
I’d stop the pursuit of my ‘fix’ only to admire the lights of the CBD as they switched on. In that moment, the Cape Town versus Johannesburg debate was as uncontested as a Springboks versus Japan game.
BUT THEN THE winter came and my fling with beach running ended or at least got suspended. Things had changed between us.
I found that sun had set by the time I got home – forcing me to run in through the suburbs and, to be honest, Milnerton is like a bad pizza – flat, boring with very few interesting toppings. But without my daily ‘fix’ of exercise, things would become volatile.
That other Leigh, the one who comes out when he doesn’t eat four meals a day or when Brendan Rodgers starts a game with Joe Allen, was bound to emerge. And so I decided to try exercising during lunch time, at least on sunny days when the Cape winter rains went on holiday.
As my legs slowly trudged up a nasty uphill in the suburb of Gardens and into Oranjezicht, the 20-floor building where I work faded into the distance until it was somewhere beneath me, no bigger than one of my thumbnails. Suddenly that email I’m waiting for or the story in need of editing seemed to have been transformed into fingernail size problems as well.
MY EXPERIENCE IS that exercise and relationships have a common factor: you have to be creative. With both you have to mix things up, go somewhere new, try new things and if, despite the effort and creativity, you find that your relationship with a type of exercise or partner isn’t working for you – then brake up – without attaching blame. After failed relationships with gym, I’m sure that running is my exercise soul-mate. I just have to make sure that I mix things up with her every now and then
When I reached the midway point of my run, I felt like Forrest Gump but without the speech impediment. I felt as if I could run for days. In fact, I feel as if my afternoon run was –and is – the only one that truly understands me. But as with love, exercise must take a break to make space and time for less enjoyable things, like going back to the office.
I’m still experiencing my runner’s high. The endorphins and other natural chemicals continue to surge through me until I’m immersed like a skinny whale in the ocean. Sadly this wonderful feeling will soon wear off, but tomorrow I can take another fix. Unlike harmful drugs my relationship with running won’t cause me to loose friends, money and self-worth.
It really is the perfect drug.
Check out the video that peeps at ANGReady54, which explains the healthy effect of exercise on your brain and what causes your ‘runner’s high’.