Why I Run…

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Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, I feel the most awful pain in the pit of my stomach. It builds up my throat and thrums in my ears. My head fills with fog, my brow furrows and I find it hard to breathe.

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, the anxiety in my body builds up to such a point that the centre no longer holds. It feels like I’m a vessel filled with liquid that has reached its capacity. And when I try to move, the liquid sloshes over the side. The tap won’t turn off and it flows and flows over the brim.

Sometimes, not often, but sometimes, the tears tip over the ledges of my eyes and leak down my face. Sometimes it’s so unexpected I cannot even trace where it came from. I cannot fathom its cause.

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We criticize, we criticize, we criticize. We look in the mirror and we tear ourselves apart. We look at others and we tear them apart. We should be marvelling at ourselves and each other, celebrating. Yet, too often I look down at my body and pinpoint all of its flaws, one by one. My scars, the size of my thighs, my nose, my height … how often have I looked at myself and thought, ‘wow, I am incredible?’

The answer is never. Not once.

But look at what my body can do. It has taken me around the world, up mountains, into lakes. It never fails me. Every blemish is a battle wound that tells the story of who I am.

Yet sometimes, I forget it…

Sometimes, not often but sometimes worry drowns me. Fear consumes me. That I’ll make the wrong decision. That people won’t like me. That I won’t be good enough. That I’m too weak, too stupid, too ugly. That I won’t get another chance, another job, another love.

I fret the small stuff and I fret the big stuff; climate change, poverty, human rights, the direction this world is heading in… that I’m not doing enough to help. I’m never doing enough to help.

And sometimes, not often, but sometimes all of that accumulates and my mood spirals downwards.

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To cope, I run, or I bike, or I hike, or I throw myself off a cliff (recreationally!) into open water… so that for a few blissful moments, time stops and I can breathe again.

For a few blissful moments my head is not clouded with worry or anxiety.

I am free from the soul-destroying grip of my phone.

I am at peace.

Perhaps it’s the beauty of the sunset, the colours in the sky, a knowing smile from a fellow runner as I pass them by, the realisation of pure isolation, the laboured panting of my breath, the sweat dripping down my forehead or the frigid wild Atlantic swell hitting my skin… it’s always a moment like that, that makes it all go away.

That perfect feeling when you close your eyes briefly and you are totally free.

It only lasts a second.

But that is all it takes.

To remember.

To be reminded.

That this world really is a beautiful place.

And I’m lucky to be in it.

And perhaps that I should stay a little longer.

And just do my best.

Try my hardest.

And see what this world has in store for me.

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Documentary: Keepers

This is a short documentary I made this year where I interviewed psychiatric nurses who used to work in the old Irish asylums. I have a unique perspective on this, growing up with two parents for nurses, four nursing aunts and two nursing uncles… all except two who worked in St. Senan’s psychiatric hospital.

Keepers