Photo by Kiaya Phillips

After a mentally challenging Michaelmas and an emotionally draining Christmas vac, I was certainly not ready to re-enter the Oxford intensity, especially for the – extensively branded – “most depressing term”, aka Hilary. So where did I immediately look for release? Sports. Admittedly, it was not my only way of releasing the pent-up stresses Oxford causes… but it was certainly the most instrumental one in actually helping me through the bleak and damp term. 

In my effort to make “healthier” choices regarding releasing my emotions and energy, I turned to running; a sport I have definitely had a love-hate relationship with all my life. From dreading it in PE at school to doing a couch to 5k along with everyone else during lockdown, then to using it to benefit my college netball and football training, I’d had a long and often turbulent relationship with it – not even to mention the body image and food side of it all. Now, was spending my Hilary sprinting out 5k every day on the PureGym treadmills the healthiest choice I could have made? In hindsight, obviously not. Though it didn’t feel so at the time, because for those 30-ish minutes where all I could hear was the music blaring through my AirPods (tunes ranging from the High School Musical soundtrack to Central Cee) and my feet smacking repeatedly on the rotating treadmill plastic, my mind was silent. For once, with all my physical focus on running and my mind occupied by the music and making sure I didn’t fall (I’ve witnessed one too many people being embarrassingly flung from a treadmill to not be cautious), I could silence the thoughts that seemed to be rattling around in my mind ceaselessly at every other moment of the day. 

With space away from Oxford over Easter, I’ve come to love running even more. Becoming more confident in my abilities (and without the fear of running into any fellow students), I have taken my runs away from the boring four grey walls of PureGym to the outdoors, adding some nature to my exercise regime. I’ve had more time to go for longer runs and integrate other forms of training into my schedule again (weightlifting, yoga, etc), so I really appreciate every exercise I do. I’ve managed to find a much better balance than my Hilary 5k intensive, and fell back in love with a type of exercise I haven’t done in years. 

As we enter spring and near summer, it’s no surprise people seem to be giving running another go. With the current epidemic of half or full-marathoners taking to the streets (and social media) in their swanky trainers and bright clothing, it can seem daunting to a newbie at first. All this jargon of interval sessions and tempo runs seems hard to digest (I’m still figuring it out). But the beauty of running is that it is such an individual journey as, generally, you are only competing against yourself. You can set your own goals and targets and be proud of yourself when you achieve them. 

Is every run great? Definitely not. I’ve had many blisters, shin splints, stitches, and done a lot of walking in my time. I certainly have a long way to go if I want to keep hitting those goals I so ambitiously set for myself. Nevertheless, it’s been nice to be able to try something new that benefits me both physically and mentally. I’d love to get more involved in the community and join a run club or do a race next. 

With the beginning of Trinity term, and summer looming teasingly over Oxford, the parks and meadows of the city are looking more beautiful than ever. I’ve even just done my first 15k running the streets of Oxford in the sunshine. So, it’s the perfect time to get outdoors, even just for a little jog! I may not be Usain Bolt but at least I’ve found a little time for peace in my running.