I always saw myself as free of addictions, in control as it were. However, I realise that I am no better than anybody else. Human addictions are a motivation, of course, as it’s a reason to get up in the morning. Then, as I ran along White Edge seeking a photograph, I took a photo of my addiction. It’s a path, a stony line going somewhere and I just can’t resist its lure. Whenever a look at a view, if a path is included then it draws me in, it enraptures me. It is a siren calling, run me, run me, run me. It is the reason why I love the Peak District, a paradise of footpaths, of lines going somewhere over the horizon. That’s where I am going but not quite yet; that final footpath.
Don’t get me wrong. I realise that many addictions are life threatening and make life awful for partners and family. Alcohol was a problem on my council estate and led to marital abuse. Betting was a routine for the men I worked with, all relatively poor. The excitement of that sure tip always ended in failure. Cigarettes were endemic and my home was more like a smokehouse. Why do we, men mostly, incline to bad habits. For some, perhaps many, it is displacement, a way to ignore the life around us. My mother and stepfather were horrendous when they had nothing to smoke. Without doubt, it was the reason why me, my sister and brother never smoked. It’s a mug’s game. However, my addiction to exercise, and paths, was also a form of displacement.
When I look back I can see that exercise is a beneficial addiction. It generally costs little unless you enrol in an expensive gym. It requires discipline and also holds a promise of failure. I have met many runners who complained of a lifetime of running and no improvement. It seemed like sheer slog for them, day after day, week after week. Perhaps exercise only works where improvement can be measured, where you become faster and feel stronger and fitter. So, I continue to look at paths as positive, as a literal way forward. However, will the path get too steep, too rough, as I age? There seem to be very few 80 year old runners in parkrun. Something’s happening!