Today eleven years ago, I started what apparently became my current exercise routine. As far as I recall, that round was a nice and flat mostly asphalt circle of at most five kilometers. It felt good, and I took quite some care to ensure it kept feeling good.
That seems to have worked out all right.
Yesterday, I headed out into the sunlight once again. I ran a fifteen-kilometer round, something of a standard longer distance for me. I ran longer and faster than I would ever have guessed in 2006, and the last two kilometers were the fastest of all, spurred by sheer joy of moving in nice surroundings in good weather. I felt leg muscles waking up, stretching like a cat having just had a nap in a sunny window, enjoying the push, looking forward to more.
It was a good run, just the kind I want to have, and it is in no way exceptional for the past years. I have truly managed to make exercise (especially running of course, but using that gym card also works in a pinch) a habit, to the point that I feel off balance and kind of cheated of something if I can not exercise regularly. What I count as "regularly" has in itself become a lot more regular, too. I used to aim for every other day and land somewhere below that as sick days and other plans affected my schedule. Now, I actively work to catch up with any missed exercises, to the point where I wonder if I should actively restrain myself.
One thought which keeps coming up is for how long I can keep going, and what I will do if I have to stop. For a long time I worried that if I could no longer run I would quickly end up a sedate blob, but this winter a small ache in my foot made me realize I can get by just fine with other forms of exercise too. It feels nice to have that worry dealt with.
Also dealt with are achievements. That is, running faster and further than before. Pushing limits. For quite a few years, running the Göteborgsvarvet half marathon and getting better was a main focus each spring. I do not want to think of my exercise as being about results, but when you steadily get better it is pretty addictive. On the downside, I often experienced a dip in motivation and perceived energy during the summer months, especially once I finally had a rough Göteborgsvarv and took a lot longer to finish than the time before.
In a way, Lejonbragden provided a way out of the achievement focus by being a distance (50 and 100 kilometers) myself and people around me did not have much concept of. Running it at both distances was an exploration of the whole concept and how I was able to handle it, throwing the focus on pace and time way into the background. It came back a bit when I ran the 50 kilometers for the second time, and when I stepped up to the 100 kilometers distance it was of course all exploration and experience again. The fourth and final time, when I ran 100 kilometers again, my whole focus was to prove to myself I had learned something from all my previous running. To simply prove I could do it better. Not in terms of speed and time, but in terms of how I felt while running as well as afterwards. Thinking back, it feels a bit like a graduation.
What comes next?
Except for regular running, I have no idea. I think (I try not too check numbers too much) my average rounds have got shorter, but on the other hand I exercise more often than ever. I did run Göteborgsvarvet again last year after a break and it was back to being pure fun so I am signed up this year too.
After that we will see.
That is as it should be.