The Northern Runner
IT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEAST EXPECT IT.
Unicorn Run BY LISA ABDELLAH
“HAVE ANOTHER TEQUILA,” encouraged my mate Zade, sending two shots of guaranteed memoryloss in our direction.
My husband Alex refused, politely. And looked at me disapprovingly.
The bar had hazy purple lighting, our shoes were sticking to the carpet, and we were dancing with foolish grins on our faces. At that moment, I felt my sole purpose in life was to down that shot.
Besides, Alex had declared he wasn’t having one; which, in my merry state, I assumed was a gallant offer to be the designated sensible (i.e. boring) one for the evening. (Possibly involving giving me a piggyback home, should I not be able to get there of my own accord later in the evening-slash-early-hours-ofthe-morning.)
Burning the candle at both ends is usually a no-no for runners. Fortunately for me, our run together the following morning failed to give Alex any opportunity to gloat. I felt surprisingly light on my feet, my muscles fired as they should, and the colours all around us were brilliant.
Alex, on the other hand, confessed he felt like a lead balloon.
It was around the time he was harping on about the injustice of his hangover that I spotted it: a unicorn, standing proudly at the side of the road. It had a majestic golden horn, and a mane that was all the colours of the rainbow. And it looked at me with unblinking eyes.
Then the unicorn sneezed, and pink glitter shot out of its nose.
“Wow!” I gasped in disbelief. And I had to ask Alex: “Did you see that?!” “The hill?” he said glumly. Perhaps I didn’t deserve it, but that feeling of elation I’d felt during our run left me itching for more.
FIGHT OR FLIGHT
So the following morning, I went in search of the unicorn. Only this time, I’d gone to bed at eight o’clock the night before, eaten sensibly, and avoided alcohol. By doing all that, I figured, I would increase my chances of encountering the effervescent equine.
But not every training session pans out the way you want it to. My legs felt surprisingly heavy, and gunmetal-grey clouds blotted out the sky. I was running at a pace I’d found easy in the past, but now it felt impossible!
As any sports psychologist worth their salt will tell you, when we perceive a threat, we’re designed to take action against it. My body went into fight-or-flight mode.
And so I stopped dead. Right in the middle of a 400-metre repeat. And agonised over the things I could have done to prevent this from happening. (Such as accepting that it was supposed to feel challenging. And thinking happy thoughts.)
Despite my ever-dwindling pace, something made me soldier on through the remaining repeats.
Still no unicorn.
Feeling defeated, I finished my run and trudged toward a nearby café. But once inside, the strangest thing happened. I took a sip from my cup – and began to choke.
At first I put it down to badlyfiltered coffee; but on closer inspection, I saw pink glitter, sprinkled on top of the foam! Then it dawned on me... Perhaps I had become so distracted by the idea of seeing that unicorn in the future that I’d forgotten to focus my attention on what I was actually doing in the moment.
Sometimes runs are great – short or long, sunrise or sunset. Then there are times when for no apparent reason, a run goes badly. It’s depressing, but you dust yourself off and keep on running.
On a bad run, the unicorn only appears afterwards – when you realise you were strong enough to stick it out, despite the challenges you faced.
IT SNEEZED, AND PINK GLITTER SHOT OUT OF ITS NOSE...