I wake up early, and force contact lenses into my still sleep-smeared eyes, and brush my teeth blearily in my sports bra and shorts. Then I tie my laces tight, and wash my hands. The smell of sweat is imprinted into trainers, no matter how often you leave them to air. I pull a t-shirt on, go to the loo one final time and leave. There’s a few moments when you’re fixing your headphones and adjusting the armband that holds your iPod when you wonder what you’re doing. But it’s too late. And you press play, and it’s started. The first few steps are precious. You feel the sweet familiar sting in cold muscles as you start to run. Your lungs start to heave before you’ve turned the first corner, and I am always startled by this. I always assume I am fitter than I am. But I continue, and my breathing settles into the paroxysms of wheezing that will startle everyone I pass.

There’s no great science to running. Despite what ‘Runners World’ would like you to believe (at the healthy cost of £3.90 an issue). It’s simple, and it’s fair. Everyone can run. You buy a pair of trainers, you jam a baseball cap on your head that is curiously mottled with sweat slicks, and you go outside. There’s no training, there’s no equipment, there’s no fuss. The average desk-bound adult, currently doing no physical exercise whatsoever, will be able to run 4 miles in two weeks. The average desk-bound adult will certainly not be able to master tennis, or basketball, or squash in two weeks. It doesn’t matter that some people have been running since they were children. It doesn’t matter that you bought your trainers five years ago and haven’t worn them since. And it really doesn’t matter that you look ridiculous when you run. Because everyone looks absurd. And honestly, unless you’re running in jeans (which I have certainly seen, and wondered at in amazement), no-one’s looking at you. Runners are boring. There are loads of them, and the most exciting thing they do is occasionally trip and fall over. That is worth watching, I agree. (I have a great friend who turned up to dinner with her face all grazed. She had been running, tripped, panicked and landed on her face. ‘Why didn’t you put your arms out?’ ‘I don’t know. I was tired. I had been running.’).

Running is beautiful in its simplicity. Because there’s nothing to it. You’ve been able to run for pretty much all of your life. You’ve gotten heavier, and taller, and more worried, but ultimately you can still run as well as you could when you were a child. Because there’s nothing to it. And that’s everything. The sense of smug satisfaction as you complete a run that no-one saw you do, the pain in your chest you ran through just to finish, the stiff clambering into the shower afterwards. Over nothing. I get up early in the mornings to prove that I can still do something the average 3 year old can do efficiently. There’s nothing like it. All that pain, and headspace, and the odd peacefulness despite my blaring playlist. I start every morning reminding myself of all the things I can do, just because I can run. The sense of quiet self-sufficiency and mastery is worth every alarmed look I receive from pedestrians as I wheeze past them. Run. It’s the best drug I know. Well,  it’s certainly the cheapest.