The Long Run: Playlists & Rabbit Holes

By Andrew Younger

It didn’t go as planned. I wanted to be on the trail by 9am. It wasn’t until 10am that I was across the harbour and the city. I forgot my headphones (note to self – back-up pair in car). I know, run without them. Not bloody likely for 16 kilometers (unless I’m doing a triathlon I use music to block out the world). In races my playlist is chosen specifically for the mood and pace and effort I want at points in that event. For long runs, it’s music I’d rarely have in a race playlist. Often slower stuff or songs I haven’t heard in a while. Or just random music.

I went home. Got my headphones and headed out closer to home. 10:39am I was on the trail. 16km the game plan. In recent months, I’ve run with others, but I needed to run alone. It’s just too peopley today. I let long runs take me down rabbit holes. On purpose. I don’t chase them away. (speaking of rabbits, they’ve been important in my life since I was 2 or 3, oh there’s another rabbit hole, and another blog…) Thinking about the things going on in my world and with friends.

Welcome inside of my head to (some of) my rabbit holes…

Kilometer 1

There’s ice. Shaded trails. It’s something like -17 Celsius with the windchill. This sucks. I hate winter. I am sure I will break a leg at some point here. My knee already hurts. By kilometer 2 I’m sailing down a hill. Everything in my head is forgotten for a moment as I hope I don’t fall and I soak up the feeling of flying. One of my favourite artists is playing in my ears and I’m dodging people on the trail, and the ice.

I feel so bare when I’m alone
Clouding up my thoughts like the cold grey sky
Wearing down my soul as the Thames rolls by
Stirring up the guilt that I pushed aside

Sol Heilo – London Is Trouble

Kilometer 3

The hills must go up again and they do. Like life? I pretend this is the approach to the Manhattan Bridge I will race across in a few weeks. Hopefully without the ice. I’m thinking about the way people treat one another. Someone said to me this week that they are always surprised when someone follows through on what they say and don’t give up on people. That’s the kind of thing that rattles around in my brain.

I began thinking of how many stories I’ve been told lately of people scared to say how they feel to work, to close friends. How when they do they feel guilty for sharing and bringing someone along into their pain.  Illenium screams in my ears about that fear.

I didn’t mean to hurt you when I hurt myself
It’s just an empty voice screaming out for help
No, I didn’t mean to scare you
But I couldn’t see
That when I went to hell I was taking you with me

Illenium – Take You Down

Kilometer 6

We all hide. I hide. You hide. But that’s a problem isn’t it? Somewhere society decided to value strength over vulnerability. We are insecure and won’t say it. We assume people are strong and can take anything. I don’t believe that’s sustainable anymore.

We worry what other people think, when maybe if people are stepping to judgement or forcing you to choose a life in black and white, that they are the problem, not you. So many of us beat ourselves up for things other people think. I’ve spoken in schools with kids who are simply traumatized by how their peers view them, for what they wear, who they like, who they hang out with. It starts so young and we build walls. Since becoming involved in Road Warriors I’m overwhelmed by the number of people who have told me that my story resonates with them. That they have built walls to protect themselves. It’s touching but at the same time it’s scary. What has the world become? Oh, and why is the salt on the sidewalk blue?

Tell me now, if you came sneaking up behind
Would you know me and see behind the smile?
I can change like colors on a wall
Hoping no one else will find what lies beneath it all
I think I hide it all so well

Dixie Chicks – Everybody Knows

Kilometer 9

Crossing over the lake I expected it to be windy. It wasn’t. It was dead calm. Like peace had come upon everything. I had two separate conversations with friends this week that floored me. I hadn’t realized all they’d been going through. Does that make me bad for missing it? One searches for closure and meaning and knowing the future. One fights the battle of balancing work and health. Both are amazing people. Excelling in their fields. Kind. Compassionate. From the outside they have everything.  But inside, like so many of us, they are still searching.

Someone has spray painted on the trail. It says “All there is, is love”. I’m not sure whether to smile at the saying or be angry they put spray paint on the trail. Gryffin asks if there’s another galaxy.

I want another life in
A brand new galaxy where
There ain’t no sense of time
And there ain’t no gravity

Gryffin – If I Left The World

Kilometer 13

Chafing from heart rate monitors is a real thing in case you’re wondering. Why didn’t I put run glide on my chest? Lesson learned. It’s warmed up. It’s sunny. I’m running mostly back on unpaved trails surrounded by dogs now. Everything is tired. I have a joke with someone that if you say “I’m fine” it really means you aren’t. It’s code for, “I know you’re asking to be polite so I won’t bore you with the details you don’t really want to know”.

How many times do you say “I’m fine” but don’t really mean it? The reality is so many of us have days where we are only a word or an action away from falling apart.

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me
And I discovered that my castles stand
Upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand

Coldplay – Vida la Vida

Kilometer 15

I misjudged my route and to get to 16 I’m doing another lap through trails inside the park. But it is nicer inside the park than on the roads which have given me fear since I was hit by a car over a year ago. It’s nicer, even with the ice. But it is funny watching the new puppies in the park try and figure out the grumpy old dogs. A bit like life eh? I start thinking about what I might say about this run. We’ve talked about starting this long run blog. I’ve seen runners out everywhere today braving the cold. Large and small. Young and old. Male and female. And behind every face is a story. Maybe a struggle. So many of us are fighting the same thing, yet are scared to reach out or seek comfort from those who understand what we’re going through. I hope we can change that.

When enemies are at your door I’ll carry you away from more
If you need help, if you need help
Your hope dangling by a string
I’ll share in your suffering to make you well, to make you well

Phillip Phillips – Gone, Gone, Gone

Kilometre 16

I sit in my car tired. Sore. The icy conditions made things tougher. Someone knocks on my car window. I was terrified. I screamed. Yes. Screamed. The reminder of the PTSD impacts that just don’t want to let go. Things startle or terrify me in ways almost no one else can understand. I felt awful. They felt awful. I was embarrassed. They just saw me and were just saying hi. I made them feel like they ruined my day. They did not. So often people misunderstand my feelings and reactions.

The run gave me 90 minutes to let my mind wander down rabbit holes. It doesn’t make it all go away, and I realize at that moment we need to give ourselves a break. Whether you have anxiety, PTSD, depression, or any kind of challenge, its part of what makes you, you. It’s not a limitation, but a strength. Like one of those weird comic book heroes, you just need to figure out how to use it for good.

‘Cause I got that sunshine in my pocket
Got that good soul in my feet

Justin Timberlake – Can’t Stop The Feeling