Running and Singing

My husband has always been sporty. In the 30 years I’ve known him, he graduated from 10-mile runs to marathons and then ultras up to 53 miles in one day.  He still runs regularly but doesn’t do more than a half-marathon now. He suggested a couple of times that I might try it and I laughed hollowly. I was always rubbish at PE, I couldn’t do anything quickly, and it didn’t appeal to me at all.

Then, when I was 53, I started running.  I was feeling low and tired, menopausal and not-quite-right. Several friends kept telling me how much they enjoyed running and I thought I’d give the Couch to 5K thing a go.  I never expected much, I just decided to do it.  I thought it wouldn’t do any harm.  After a month, I had to stop because I had eye surgery and was unaccountably annoyed. I started the programme again as soon I was allowed to, and did my first park run within three months.  Guess what? I love running.  I really, really enjoy it – not just the feeling afterwards, though that’s nice too.

The parallels between singing and running are many.

  • To move from walking to running, or from talking to singing, start gently and keep going. The more you do it, the more comfortable you will get.
  • Running can be fun, and good for you, even if you are never going to run very far or very fast.
  • Singing’s the same – everyone can enjoy it and benefit from it without ever wanting to be Shirley Bassey.
  • Both activities can be a source of joy that is slightly addictive.  They involve a physical effort that stretches your body and engages your emotions too.
  • They both use your whole body – running is not just about your legs, just as singing is not just about your mouth.  You control your breath and engage your core,.
  • You don’t need much equipment for running, and you can do it almost anywhere. Singing takes this to a new level, since you don’t even need special shoes and a sports bra.

The parallel that strikes me most strongly, however, is the habit of resistance.  For years and years I would respond to any suggestion of running with an automatic refusal. “Oh, running’s not for me. I’m hopeless. I can’t do anything fast. You won’t get me running for pleasure.”  And yet, I really enjoy it now.  I miss it when I’m injured or too busy.

All those people who say, “Oh, I can’t sing. You wouldn’t want me in your choir,” have just developed a reflex response.  It might well be, like my whole-hearted belief that I could never run or do anything sporty, rooted in our school days when teachers seemed particularly keen on sorting out sheep from goats in the Music and PE departments.

To them I would say, just give it a go.  You might be surprised at what you get out of it.

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