Today was a beautiful day on the Kapiti Coast, and I was fortunate to be able to get out this morning for a run at the Waikanae River. There is a track up and down either side of the river, that is well used by cyclists, walkers (mostly with dogs), runners, and the occasional horse and rider. From the Otaihanga Domain footbridge up to the SH1 bridge and back down the other side it is 9.42km according to @JoSmith014 and her mapmyrun, but I like to call it an even 10km. There is another footbridge about 3km up river from Otaihanga, so depending on how much time, energy or motivation I have there are options for how far I go.
Running is my ‘thing’ – although calling it running may be a little generous, it more often than not is just putting one foot in front of the other. But when I say that it is my thing, it is what I know enhances my wellbeing in a way that when I get out of routine and stop, my wellbeing suffers.
There is no doubt that it has benefits for my physical wellbeing, but it is my mental and emotional wellbeing that I think really benefits. A few years ago I would run with music, but I don’t any more. I love the opportunity running gives me to clear my head, to think up big ideas, to organise thought processes, to plan what I need to do that day or week, to rehearse conversations that I need to have. But it also gives me the chance to just look around and appreciate this stunning country that we live in. For the last several years my running of choice is off road, and any events that I enter are also off road, many giving me the chance to see parts of our country that are otherwise not open to the public. Though I have run the Waikanae River hundreds of times, today I was once again in awe of the beauty of the place, and feeling incredibly grateful that I could access such a beautiful environment. For me this is how running links to my spiritual wellbeing – the connection with the land, and the appreciation for the environment.
Running is often a social occasion, especially at the weekends when I will often run with my Mum (who is an absolute inspiration to me!), my sister, and more recently Jo Smith (I twisted her arm to join me in training for the Hawkes Bay Half Marathon). But today I reflected on how ‘social’ the people on the Waikanae River track are in a way that we are not on your average street. I was running alone, but I would’ve seen about 16 people during my time on the track. Everyone single of one of them were happy to make eye contact, say hello or good morning, or comment on the beautiful day. It seems the river is a place that encourages people to say hello, speak words of encouragement, and share a smile. Today I stopped on one of the bridges to join an elderly couple searching for trout in the water – we spotted two. The last few weeks I have had conversations with people at the Otaihanga Bridge looking for the schools of mullet that come up with the incoming tide – such learning opportunities, I had no idea!
It made me think about a conversation I had with my colleague the other week; he despairs at the fact that people don’t talk to each other, or even say hi, yet they spend 45 minutes to an hour sitting next to someone on the train or on a domestic flight. I digress from the running theme for a bit, but it is still about social wellbeing. What a difference it makes on the train when the conductor has a sense of humour and engages with the public – you see everyone smile! So different to what is normally observed, but it clearly brings some cheer to the start of people’s day. (Now I have to admit that I tend to have my nose in a book on the train or on a flight – I am a bit protective about this ‘me’ time! So I don’t tend to seek out conversation with the person next to me.)
So back to the run… it is wonderfully refreshing to engage with people on the River track instead of the usual ‘avoidance of eye contact’ that you might get on the street. It is nice to think that you have shared in someone’s day, shared a smile, sometimes shared a story.
I like this Thai Insurance Ad that reminds us of the impact that simple acts of kindness can have on one’s own wellbeing but more significantly that of others.
And as Ellen would say ‘Be kind to one another’.