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Loneliness and the power of running

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It was such a beautiful evening. The Slad Road weaved ahead of me as I ran at the end of my working day, the Cider-with-Rosie view glistening to my right in a washed watercolour painting that, when I stopped, propping my hand on my brow as I blinked at the low hammock of the evening sun, took my breath away, writes Nikki Owen.

For a moment, I couldn’t move. In that second, I was acutely aware that I was alone, a spec on this savannah-like horizon, just me, no one near, and I nearly cried, not knowing quite why, but I started running again, and the tears retreated and I kept moving.

And as I did, as I ran along the well-trodden path, two realisations hit me. One, I’d been feeling lonely of late and hadn’t truly comprehended that fact until then. And second, oddly, when I run, I don’t feel lonely.

It’s not something we talk about much, loneliness. I debated whether to mention it at all, really, the strange veil that shrouds the feeling, the singular nature of loneliness preempting discussion before it’s even had a chance. But, then I thought, if more of us talk about it, maybe, somehow, it will get easier. It weirdly can evoke shame, that if we’re lonely, we’re somehow deficient in, I don’t know, friendships, for example. And yet, I’m a happy soul at heart, blessed with many close, loyal friends, friends who have each other’s backs, all of us warriors who would protect each other to the end. So why do I feel lonely at times?

One word: lockdown. This year has thrown a curveball for us all, the isolation, these last four months, in particular, a striking reminder that Covid is real and that we need each other. I’m a person who recharges through chatty interaction with other people, yet for so long now, I haven’t been able to do that.

I ran further up the Slad Valley that evening and thought of my own situation. The past few years for me have been hard in many ways, so much loss and stress, living, as I do, a considerable time on my own. These things take their toll, eventually, no matter how strong we are (for we are). Life, as they say, will always catch you up.

And I thought and I ran, and as my feet hit the pavement, I realised I’d been ignoring the fact I felt so very lonely a lot of the time during lockdown. Yet it came to me that when I run, I don’t feel lonely at all. That’s the power of running, the freedom to connect it gives, not only with nature but with everything around us. Running plugs me into life, it, effectively, recharges me.

Life is always changing, it’s something we have to accept. What feelings we have today can be so very different tomorrow, and to ignore them can hurt us. Yet if we see them, if we see each other, if we talk – if we run – we feel better. And eventually, on trodden path, we smile and, one foot in front of the other, we take in the incredible view.


Nikki Owen is an author and endurance runner living in Stroud.
Instagram @nikkiowenauthor
Twitter @nikkiwriter

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