JUST recently my work routine has been rudely disrupted. My comfortable 10 minute drive (or 15 minute cycle ride if the weather’s good and I’m feeling fit) has been replaced by a more regular dash to the station, scramble for a seat on the train and an hour and half as the guest (or customer as they insist on calling me) of South West Trains, tapping away on the computer.
For me, there’s comfort in routine; you know where you are, the world is predictable. I don’t think I’m boring, I just like to know where I am… Saturday morning; sunshine and no work. A leisurely start. The phone rang, a friend anxious to know how work was going. I moaned about early starts and commuting.
“So what are you doing today, then?” she asked.
“Going for a run,” I replied looking down at an expectant beagle, “But I’m bored with my usual route.”
“Do it in reverse,” she suggested, “It’ll feel like a whole new route.”
“I can’t do that,” I replied horrified at the thought, “I always run it that way round.”
I rehearsed the reasons why I had to do it that way round: The hills were in the right place, the muddy track would be too slippery to descend (much easier to run up) and there’s a lovely view of the Cathedral from the ridge at the top – I would miss that if I had my back to it. What a ridiculous idea, running the route in reverse. Besides it would confuse the beagle… I started off. Decision time. Same direction or different? I could feel myself weakening… Left or straight on? I always went straight on… Boldly, I turned left. Up the chalk hill, along the ridge with my back to the Cathedral. And new vistas opened up in front of me: rolling downs, a horizon dotted with skeletal trees outlined against a clear blue, sunlit sky. A slow, slippery descent down a muddy track – a chance to catch my breath and Barney an opportunity for a good sniff, then along the lane heading for home. To my surprise, I recorded one of my best running times! Was the route faster that way round, or did I perform better because I’d run it a different way?
The good thing about predictability is that you always know where you are. The bad thing about it is that nothing will change.
The changes in my routines have brought two benefits. I discovered new things that I hadn’t seen before: the view over the downs and the benefits of catching my breath en route. While the change to my work routine and the additional train journey has increased, both the physical and the mental distance between home and work is giving me a chance to see things in a different light.
Right, that’s the article done. My usual glass of beer, I think...