The Monday morning commute is something I, amongst most others, will always dread and despise. The day in itself is a reason to don a frown, the time almost unhealthy. I make this journey each week to volunteer at a London hospital, and then when term time arrives I will become again a frequent face on the city bound line. Though it may not be a very long journey, under one hour, it can seem like a major task to endure – twice.
I confess, I am in part responsible for the tense silence befalling my carriage. Not being extraverted, and minimally sociable, I don’t break the rule of No Conversation between commuters – aside from the occasionally mumbled apology for squashing another passenger as I shuffle into my seat. This makes me part of the problem.
The problem being that when passengers – on a mainline train, a tube, a bus – abide by their travelling rule we become disconnected from each other. If you avoid eye contact, purse your lips together, park your luggage in the adjacent seat, stare at your phone, plug in those headphones… anything to pretend its just you on the train. What does the person across from you even look like?
It may be difficult to break a smile when you have to stand for hours, being thrown about from the train’s momentum, and sweating profusely in the cloud of commuter stench. Or when nobody will offer up their seat, or allow you to leave the carriage before they board.
Perhaps these are the excuses commuters hold onto to pardon themselves of rudeness, aggression, irritability and a general aura of icy silence. I think it would be nice to try and break that silence, and perhaps get to know the strangers I travel with each day.
Although I have on occasion tried running, a lap around the park or maybe a quick jog up the road, I had never considered that I would one day begin training to run a marathon. Even 1 mile seemed too far in my mind, let alone over 26! But just a short while ago I stood on a station platform, my train delayed, and I was distracted by a new advertisement – the Chelmsford Marathon 2015. I don’t live in Chelmsford. I don’t play sports. Running? Blurgh.
The idea planted itself firmly in my thoughts. For the entire train journey, throughout my jobs of the day, and when I returned home much later, I wondered. The date of the marathon would mark a year on from when I had been very ill in hospital. I realised then how health, indeed life, should not be taken for granted. They can both so easily be shattered without warning, reason or fairness. I had thought these things before but I hadn’t really known the feeling. That was when I decided to go for it. The marathon would be a strange anniversary of an epiphany.
I downloaded the training plan they sent for beginners and started with the first run. The personal trainer’s online advice was to be able to run for 30 continuous minutes, rather than focus on any distance. I’m quite competitive with myself and decided I would push myself as far as I could go, which turned out to be 4.4miles in 40 minutes.
It may not sound much, but it was VERY difficult. My side was in a stitch for most of the run and my lungs felt like they were bleeding. The hardest part wasn’t the physical challenge, but the psychological walls I had to break down. Or at least, start to break down some of them.
After my first real run today, I feel tired and just a little bit proud. I am ready for the challenge.