My physiotherapist better look away now. Because this is a post about something that I really shouldn’t be doing much of but, despite all advice to the contrary, can’t give up.
It’s running. Or jogging, or slogging, or the next best word that describes my morning efforts around Bull Island.
On the mornings I can run that is. A burgeoning case of hallux limitus, a fairly common arthritic disorder that’s struck the big toe of my left foot.
A year ago I wrote about how the condition could eventually end my running altogether. Twelve months on and a canny regime of ice/walking/bicycling/rest has ensured that I can still get out for 5k twice a week. If I’m feeling utterly reckless I’ll stretch that to 10 – and pay for it afterwards.
But stopping is not an option. Most runners know the empty, distracted feeling when they miss a planned outing. Those who are injured know that they will do anything – make whatever time sacrifice, take whatever supplement, stretch whatever muscle – to get back out again.
Why? It’s not to get a physical workout – there are less painful ways to do that. It’s mental – or it certainly is in my case. When I’m off the track I miss the calming, clearing effect of a good run.
Over the years I’ve tried many things to quiet my mind. But nothing even comes close to the effect of 25 minutes running in the outdoors.
In recent weeks I’ve needed this more than ever. Planning, packing and preparing to leave Ireland has been exciting – but the flipside of the excitement, the anticipation and the bittersweet series of goodbyes has been my mind’s switch is jammed to ‘on’.
And so I’ve turned – despite the pain, which is manageable – back to jogging. Not just any jogging either, but a workout on Bull Island and Dollymount Strand, the sandspit that sits to the north of Dublin city centre.
This has been my gym in recent years, and it’s one I’ll miss. When my running ban was in effect I’d walk there, in any season and any weather.
But the best time to run in the area is on an August morning, shortly after a 6am sunrise. If you’re lucky you’ll catch dawn breaking over Howth Head, on one side, and over the city of a million slowly waking souls on the other. Most likely you’ll be alone, blank before the heavens, while your thoughts will have the decency not to intrude.
I’ve no idea where I’ll be running next month but – physios be damned – I will be. Whatever the location I do know one thing – I’ll take some of the Bull Island zen with me.