A Run with a View

(or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Race)


Two years ago, you couldn’t make me run. For anything. A bus, a twenty-pound note fluttering across the road, a breakaway nephew bounding through Ikea. Nothing.

Despite my athletic youth and 5”11 frame, I’m effectively allergic to exercise. I smoke a lot. And I can easily (and often do) put away a litre of whisky a week, a fact that I am both proud and ashamed of. I’m not a morning person, a do-gooder, or an optimist. In fact, I am probably ELLE's least likely candidate for taking up running.


And yet, I am standing on the cliffs of the Cap de Creus national park in Northern Catalonia, Instagramming the violent waves crashing below, the brave coastal wind stealing what little breath I have left. I’m teary with the realisation that I’ve changed since my last visit to this beautiful place. Let me explain.

A few years ago, when I first came to Cadaqués, I hadn't been myself for a long, long time. I’d moved from Montréal in Canada, home for almost ten years, having spent most of my life there in another language. I was working for a luxury fashion magazine, which I loved, but it can be hard to reconcile a night out rubbing shoulders with A-listers and gorging on Ladurée macaroons with taking the night bus home because you can’t afford a cab. I was in a relationship with someone who I truly adored but we weren't in love. I'd let my body go soft, and though I'd never be considered overweight, it was enough to make me shop denim in the men's section and call them Boyfriend Jeans.


But the thing that niggled most was my mind. I wasn’t creative anymore (kind of a thing if you’re an Art Director; an AD without the creative spark is like an athlete with an injury). I wasn’t laughing anymore. And I was turning 30 in six months.

On the dusty rocks of the cape I resolved to be better, to stop worrying and start participating. I made lists, lots of lists, about who I wanted to be, what I really needed, a picture of my ideal life. And then I buried them deep inside a notebook and forgot about them.

But they stayed with me, boxed up through the sad move out of the home I shared with my ex who’d brought me to London, into a new flat all to myself; from the desks cleared out at my old office to my new digs at ELLE HQ. They were there when I was kissing frogs who I knew didn’t have a chance in hell of becoming princes. And they were there when I started running, after a bout of insomnia, in a haze of sleep-deprivation, agreeing to participate in a 10k race with the rest of the team (Thanks ELLE commissioning ed Hannah, for catching me in a weak moment. Sly one).

My return to this dreamlike place, Dali’s hometown whose surreal landscapes so inspired him and now me, marks the end of an long road, something I hadn't realised when I booked our let’s-catch-up-on-sleep-and-gossip girlie week away.

From the station, winding our way through olive trees, over arid hills that rise up before a sea that explodes in a blinding flash of blue below, I was hit with a wave of anxiety. An urgent impulse to lace up and go. So I did. I ran 40 kilometers that week, pouring over the terrain; I discovered every rock, tree, and secret cove. Saw things I never would have had I strolled the road most-travelled.

Lovers stealing kisses, unaware they were being overlooked. Children playing make-believe in haphazardly constructed forts, grandmothers hanging whites on the line, cats napping in cool shadows. I kept going even though in the heat, my body was suffering the effects of too much jamon, too much cava, too many cigarettes, too little sleep. I wanted to see everything, taste the salt in the air, be breathless.

It happened when I’d turned my back to the water, heading uphill to the peak of the peninsula: ‘Just a few more paces, you can do it, just bloody get there.’ I was talking to myself and it hit me. ‘You’ve done it. You’re already there.’

Those lists that I made? The ones I’d hidden long ago and serendipitously found the night before we left for Spain? I've ticked off 90% of what's on them. I’m not perfect, but I’m the best version of myself I’ve ever been. If the old Miette saw me now, she wouldn't recognize me. I’m proud of that.

Since then, I’ve realised it doesn’t matter where you start, how far you go, or how often you stop along the way. It doesn't matter how long it takes, or how many times you mess it up and crumble in a heap of sweat and tears. Just lace up and go.

Running makes you stronger, in every sense. My body is, my lungs are, and that’s a nice treat. But so am I. And I’m getting better at it, one pace at a time.

Follow Miette on twitter @MietteLJ

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