Ran early today, enjoying the feeling of sneaking in some exercise before many people are up for the weekend. For the first time in a long time, I ran without music, audiobooks or podcasts.
What did I notice? I was anticipating and looking forward to writing about the colours of the sky, and how it changed from rusty brown to baby blue, or observing some slices of city life not usually seen. Perhaps shift workers going off duty, or watching cafes and stations slowly coming to life.
But the sky started and stayed a silvery white, Instead of running past, and then penning any scenes that could have come straight from Sukdev Sandu’s beautiful book Night Haunts, I passed a lot of other joggers.
If you aren’t familiar with Sandu’s work, have a look at his book, or at least the accompanying website.
Cleaners, sewers, urban foxes, they’re all there.
Sandu is a critic writer for the Telegraph. He writes sublimely. Sometimes you have to look hard for motivation on a wintry morning, and for me, this morning I was inspired by his stories and hoping to pass some sights not usually seen.
And then I saw them. Lying on pavements. Propped up by the recycling bins and tumbled into the gutter. In the quiet streets they looked desolate, abandoned. Some lay singly, others in groups, surrounded by needles like passed out addicts in a squat. Discarded Christmas trees. An embarrassment on suburban pavements.
How quickly this happens, and how sad. The magic, wonder and sparkle, ditched until another year clocks round. I didn’t feel very merry, running (ok, jogging slowly) past used and stripped trees.
The opening chords of January blues were almost audible. No wonder that people have celebrated on Twelfth Night for centuries. Whether with pastries, or farcical cross-dressing plays or the start of Carnival.
On the way home I had a small epiphany of my own.
Every time I come back after a run, I feel good.
I've never come back and had that gloomy after Christmas feeling.
For a long time, I’ve felt reliant on music to keep me moving, something interesting to listen to, or some other form of entertainment that is also a distraction or motivation. But running in silence today meant engaging differently with the world around me, and with my own thoughts.
It's interesting what happens when the music stops.
Seasons pass. Christmas trees fall. But unlike the trees, endorphins are not just for Christmas. Bring ‘em on.