I like to run. I find it is a quick way of getting some exercise, and helps to reduce stress and anxiety. I’d like to share my thoughts on this, and also share with you an experience which had the potential of being my first ‘spiritual experience’ *spoiler alert*.
I’ve begun recently to take part in organised races, like the Glasgow Half Marathon and the Great Scottish Run. I really enjoy these events. Its great to see people out exercising and meeting new people, and there is usually a real buzz of excitement around the place.
Many of the runners taking part will be raising money, and many times for issues which are of particular interest them. Like many, sadly very many, people, I have had loved ones affected by cancer, and given support from Macmillan nurses. I’ve only ever done two runs for sponsorship. The reason for this is that I have an innate feeling that proselytizing for one particular charity, or soliciting money from people, for an activity which I do for personal pleasure – and certainly doesn’t cause me that much inconvenience, is somehow distasteful, or narcissistic even.
I mean, sure, I do share my running activities and times on Facebook and Twitter, and it makes me happy to know that my family and friends are supportive.
On balance however, I think the charge of narcissism can be overcome. Simply put, I think it’s reasonable to assert that of the people who give money to a charity as a result of my run, there will be a positive-sum game. That is to say, that despite how disagreeable it may be to people, or how distasteful they find it, the charitable component does serve a useful purpose. That said, I think the situation would be different for someone who used a proportion of the charitable funds to resource their activity, which I do not do.
So. Now to discuss the possible ‘spiritual experience’. During the Bupa Great Edinburgh Run on Sunday 27 April, something strange happened.
Due to a chest cough in the month leading up to the race, my training schedule was completely eviscerated. Even the night before the race, I probably should have eaten more carbs, and certainly drank less beer!
As a combination of all of this, I soon began to experience some mild hypoglycaemia around mile 5. After a few more hills I slowed my pace to try to regain my composure, by this time however, I was really flagging. I was listening to music on my iPod, however, I was a bit disconcerted to pick up the vague sound of my name. I put this down to either a misheard lyric, or, perhaps the effects of my poor pre-run nutrition.
I became really cold and clammy on the next assent – so rather than risk fainting, I decided to walk for a while. At this stage, again I was sure I heard someone say ‘Gary’. This made the pulse quicken slightly, was I on the cusp of fainting? I was aware that in the current situation, my perception skills were likely to be somewhat impaired. Perhaps I was experiencing auditory hallucinations? That can’t be a good thing, I thought.
A few moments later, again, I heard someone say ‘Gary’ – definitely. Then just a moment afterwards I felt a hand on my shoulder, and turned round to see a lovely woman say to me encouragingly ‘C’mon Gary, you can do it!’.
What? Who the hell is that, what is going on!?
Then, I remembered, the additional letters I had ironed onto my running top:
Simples, nothing more than an act of human kindness. And, of course, before you feel the need to email me, I never ever thought it might have been a ‘spiritual experience’.