Running and freelance life

I was reminded yesterday evening of this below essay I’d written about running and freelance life, for my friend and colleague photographer Tom Broadbent’s Patreon site. In these tougher days in UK as we head into winter, we’re all going to need more mental fortitude. Here’s how I, as a Scotland-based freelance photographer working on my own projects and on photographic assignments, find the strength to keep going in my freelancing and creativity. Jeremy

Early morning winter run. Glasgow, Scotland.

Mental fortitude. That’s what we all need in life, especially in this creative life we’ve chosen for ourselves. The mental strength to get on, to manage, to thrive, to endure. Mental fortitude, that’s what running brings me, and brings to my creative practice.

I began running in 2009, the world economy was collapsing and all my assignments dried up in Tokyo, where I was living at the time. I went to a gym and the lady told me to do 20-minutes on a running machine. I looked at her incredulously, 20-minutes? That’d kill me.

Within a year, like a complete novice, I ran a marathon (Don’t try this at home kids!). I didn’t run it well, or fast, but I’d set myself the goal and achieved it. I nearly cried when the old Japanese grandmother placed the medal round my neck.

But since then my love for running has calmed down and grown. On a quiet week I’ll run a couple of 5kms around my neighbourhood, see what’s changing in the streets, keep an eye on the political graffiti and flyers. On a busier running period, when I’m in the mood, I’ll run 4 or 5 times. Or, if I want away from my laptop I head out to the hills on the edge of the city and toil up the hills, or run across the fields. If you go early enough in the morning you’re assured to see deer. I envy the grace with which they run away from me, but to see them living wild, running free, gives me a sense of freedom and hope, restores my faith in life, nourishes me.

Sometimes I run by myself, no music, just me, my thoughts all over the place. I don’t problem solve, nor do I brainstorm ideas, I just try to breathe and keep going. My brain gets a rest from thinking.

I enjoy the light in early mornings, you see the changing of the seasons as you run the same routes, notice the vegetation grow, and the scents in the air change. Sometimes I run with pals, when trying to run faster, or longer, or if I’ve a race coming up. It’s great to talk about other things, other lives, other interests, outside of photography.

And that’s what running is for me, an escape from photography and freelance life. It keeps life in balance, eases stresses, brings you other things to think about. Nothing like keeping your mind off work when you’ve an ache or sprain to obsess about. But over the years the thing I’ve derived most from my running is greater mental fortitude.

Head torch run with friends, on Cathkin Braes overlooking the city, in Glasgow, in Scotland.

It’s good to toughen one’s self up. To have some grit and strength to be able to draw upon. When a photo project is dragging on, you’re not enjoying it, but you need the money, you can remember that tough run you did last week, head first into the wind and stinging rain in your face and you thought you’d die. Suddenly the photo project doesn’t seem so hard.

Or, after you’ve been and done some hill repeats with a pal, run up a hill for 150-metres as fast as you can, walk back down, do it ten times. You’re dying. But on the way home you’re smiling, a sense of achievement, you’ve pushed yourself, you’ve learned about yourself, you’ve learned what you can do and what you can endure. Then, when some client treats you in a shitty way, it doesn’t seem so bad, doesn’t seem as bad as that tenth hill repeat.

Running isn’t about being fast, or how far you can run. It teaches you many things about yourself, about your spirit, your endurance, your own health and physique, your diet, and your own character. You find yourself on runs, especially the harder ones.

Go out in the rain for a run, those are the best. Or go run across a field, or along a path with vegetation. Or get up early, get out and run when the sun is coming up and it’s a cold, winter morning. You’ll feel alive. You come back revitalised, toughened, happy. And because you laced up those shoes, you put your toe on the start line, you went for a run, you’ll come back ready to take on a new day in the tough world of freelance creativity. Which you’ll smash, because you’re already a champion.

There’s so much more I could write abut running and photography, or running and freelancing. Maybe I’ll do some more posts… – Jsh.

1 thought on “Running and freelance life

  1. A great article which could be appropriately enhanced with an update covering our February run, you know the one!

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