M A G I C A L running: the power of nostalgia

Yesterday I returned from a weekend in St. Andrews, which is my favourite place in the WHOLE ENTIRE WORLD. I completed my master’s degree at the University of St Andrews 4 years ago, and it genuinely was one of the best years of my life.

My initial love for running began to develop in St. Andrews, although I did not realise this at the time. Back in 2013, I lived a 2-minute walk from the beach, and every day, between work and writing my dissertation, I would disappear for a couple of hours to power walk/ jog through the coastal trails.

I didn’t realise that essentially what I was doing was trail running (I didn’t actually know what trail running was at this stage.) Bizarrely, I didn’t even class what I was doing as a form of exercise – I thought I was just exploring a beautiful place, mixing walking with a bit of running here and there. I used these 2 hours as my one time to escape between a particularly busy period – working full time whilst writing a master’s thesis was quite a challenge! Looking back, it was a fantastic form of exercise and on the rare occasion that I am lucky enough to visit St Andrews, I take full advantage of the coastal trails and golden sands.*

Nostalgia is bittersweet; the desire to escape into the ‘perfect’ or idealised world of a previous time can come with dangerous connotations. In a course that I am currently taking, nostalgia is very much discouraged, which I understand to an extent. However, ruminating and positive reminiscing are, in my opinion, at very different ends of the spectrum.**

I find that nostalgia really aids my running. ‘Magical’ running in St. Andrews is an extreme example of this, but there are also less scenic routes that spark nostalgia… the aerodrome where I would take my dog when I first started running and was too self-conscious to run alone. The long, bleak stretch of road in the Scottish Borders where I trained for my first marathon. If I am lacking in motivation, going back to old running routes can have a really positive impact.

Do you have a ‘magical’ running location/route? Perhaps a place that sparks a feeling of nostalgia, or is meaningful to you?

*Last weekend, my Sunday morning run wasn’t 100% magical as I encountered a naked man swimming in a large rock pool. It was very cold and pouring with rain, so the nudity did shock me a little.

**I have read many great books and studies surrounding time perspective – please feel free to get in touch if you are interested in this and I can share these with you!

Should I join a Running Club?

In line with my 1-year & 3 weeks anniversary of ‘officially’ joining South London Harriers, I thought this would be an apt post!

I attempted to join a running club in Scotland a couple of years ago but was informed that said running club was for MEN ONLY NO LADIES ALLOWED. Being the stubborn character that I am, I turned up and ran with them anyway, and can report that it did not go down well.

Upon relocating to London, I attempted to join a running club for the second time. On this occasion, I was not rejected due to my gender (#blessed). However, I was asked to provide a list of my PB’s for various distances, which made me feel a little uncomfortable.

Both experiences led me to conjure up mental images of smug, conceited runners, and I concluded that perhaps joining a running club was not the right move for me.

Nonetheless I persevered, and this is where this sad tale ends. South London Harriers were supportive and welcoming, and encouraged me to come along for a few Sunday long runs – a couple of months later, I joined the club.

From my personal experience, here are a few (of many) reasons to join a running club:

  1. Accountability

Positive peer pressure works very well for me! Although I’m intrinsically motivated, this sometimes wavers during the winter months (I really, really LOATHE cold weather. And by cold weather, I mean anything under 20 degrees.)

Making a commitment to join others for a training session is a great way to hold yourself accountable, and it makes those frosty winter early morning runs a lot more enjoyable.

  1. Community

Primarily, I wanted to join a running club purely to improve my running. This has evolved into something a lot more meaningful, although the self-improvement aspect has been fantastic, and it’s been beneficial to pick up tips from runners with decades of experience.

I’ve met some wonderful people through running (although there have been a couple of morons, such is life), who I might not have crossed paths with otherwise.

  1. Mental Health

I have previously written a post dedicated to Running & Mental Health, and I would like to highlight this again. Being surrounded by enthusiastic people has had just as much (if not more) of a positive impact on my mental health than running itself.

Although my initial contact with running clubs did not go to plan, I really hope this doesn’t put anyone off. From my experience, runners with an elitist attitude are in the minority*, and I was simply very unlucky.

Joining a club has enriched my experience of being a runner, and I would encourage anyone considering it to give it a go!

*Of course, there are some clubs that tend to be a bit elitist, and perhaps this is the sort of running club you are looking for! However, it’s just not for me.