This week I was reminded of the absolute importance and impact of music, both in training and in life.
I went for a lovely walk on my own. It was a hazy, sunny afternoon and I planned to do some interval training up and down the hill where I live. I stuck my iPod on and off I went. I used to use my iPod a lot while running but I must say it has gathered some dust recently. I found an old playlist and whacked it on full volume. Memories came flooding back, of many things.
I recalled the adrenaline I used to feel when running and how music stimulated that adrenaline and was essential to pushing myself – “I’ll just keep going till the end of this song…” and then, two minutes later – “This is an amazing tune, I’ll just keep going till the end of this one…”. I recalled how certain songs seem to fit the rhythm of my feet moving and how a faster song increased my pace up to keep in time with music. All very helpful when trying to push as hard as possible, as it takes the focus away from any pains, huffing or puffing and puts it firmly on what you’re listening to. I remembered the feeling of satisfaction, exhaustion and wellbeing that you can only get after a good workout where you have really stretched yourself. It was a really good reminder of what I know I can achieve, however difficult it seems to be. Before I started training for the half marathon, I felt there was no way I could possibly complete it, but I did… after lots of hard work, and with an extensive soundtrack.
Alongside remembering the way music can make you feel during exercise, each song which came on reminded me of something. Good times, testing times, times with friends, times with family. Songs which I don’t even really love that much but which remind me of people, places, occasions. ‘Dakota’ by the Stereophonics came on – it’s a very evocative song for me and I practically skipped up one particularly steep incline, hardly noticing it. And then came the song which I have decided is the most awesome exercise song ever…… ACDC’s ‘You Shook Me All Night Long’. I defy anyone to listen to that song and not want to throw some shapes. I’m sure you will all be very pleased and surprised to learn that it is possible to walk at a fast pace up a hill and air drum at the same time. It’s a great work out. And I’m sure I didn’t look weird at all.
I was climbing uphill across a field of sheep when I was a bit knocked for six when ‘Fix You’ by Coldplay came on. The change in song took me immediately to a wistful sadness. I’m really not a huge fan of Coldplay… but I will admit that on this occasion they knocked me for six.
In 2005 I won 2 tickets for Live 8 – I think the first thing I had won since I was 7 and won the ‘Name the Dolly’ competition at the school fete. (Incidentally, I have strong suspicions that the dolly win was somewhat engineered in my direction by my teacher.) I was very, very excited at the prospect of going to Live 8 and about making the decision about who to take with me. It didn’t take me too long to decide that Ian, my brother, would love it, embrace it and be just as excited about it as me. It was also after his recovery from a significant period of depression, and I felt that it would make him happy. We went together and had a brilliant day. It is an event I have thought back on many times since he died as a really amazing memory; a super, happy day and Ian on top form. He was particularly enthused when Coldplay came on stage. They played the next single to be released from their album at the time, which was Fix You – I had never heard it before but Ian had the album and really loved the song. It always reminds me of him for this reason and also because of the lyrics, which, although somewhat clunky, are very applicable to how my relationship was with him for many years. Ultimately, I just was never able to fix him.
So, as I was walking up the beautiful hillside, with my long shadow leading the way in the sun, a clear blue sky above me, birds soaring and the song filling my head, I suddenly missed Ian such a lot. I wished he was there to see the blue sky, breathe in the air and climb the hill.
The irony is he would have loved it. He loved lots of things in life. Depression isn’t about crying all the time, or hating everything, or being miserable. It’s about not being able to enjoy anything anymore, even the things you know you love. Ian’s suicide was about choosing not to be a part of a life he had once loved but couldn’t find the energy for anymore.
I had to sit for a minute and have a little weep. It may seem dramatic, all because I heard a song, but I’m sure that if you had been there with me, hearing the song that Ian loved, under the blue sky, looking over the fields, trees and countryside, watching the birds flying… I’m sure that if you had been there, and if you had known Ian, you might have had a little weep with me too.
On my way back home from my walk I was struck by how therapeutic the process of training for the trek is, for a mixture of reasons. There’s undoubtedly the benefit of fresh air, endorphins and the release of serotonin from being out in the sunshine. But there’s also the element of time out. Everyone has such busy lives and it is difficult to find time purely for ourselves and our thoughts without interruption from the television, the phone, the children, work, chores. I can’t remember the last time I stuck my iPod on and was truly alone with my own thoughts, with no pressure to make conversation, be polite to anyone, be interesting, listen to anyone else, read something, make a decision and so on and so on. Training for the trek forces me to take that time with my thoughts and my soundtrack, and be alone for a few precious minutes or hours.
It’s a wonderful thing to do and I recommend it. Right now, I’m off to make tea for my children, feed my cats and load the dishwasher. But I might just put ACDC on while I do it.
Till next week,