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When running smells glorious

I went to an all girls’ boarding school for high school. Yip. Imagine every cliché you can, and that was us. BUT this is aside from the point. When we were in Grade 8, first year, we had to run every morning as part of our initiation. Our run was scheduled for five thirty, and lasted for about forty minutes. The last lap was around the boys’ school across the road. The fact that is was the end of the run is not significant really, apart from the fact that this was shower time in the boys’ dorms. And we would salivate at the smells of soap and cologne wafting through the windows.

I was a trouble maker, back in those days, (and probably still?) but I had a boyfriend, briefly, who was three years ahead of me in school. This made me quite unpopular with the older girls – many of whom were in charge of these runs – so the advice my cousin had given me: to tie a pony in my hair and walk fast enough for the pony tail to jiggle, which makes it look like you are running; became redundant. These bitches wanted blood.

They forced me to run, and run at their pace and I hated it.

Well, the boyfriend, let’s call him Fred, quite liked the fact that he could see me come running past his hostel in the mornings. And once I told him we could smell their shower smells, he liked even more. It was the time of CK One. All the hot guys – or wanna-be-hot-guys wore it. Fred wore it. When I explained JUST how loathsome I found these early morning runs, despite the last lap of sensory glory, he said he would try to make it worth my while. Being older, and slightly more influential, he once arranged for the Grade 8 boys to join us on a run. He also once arranged for us to have a run while the first team rugby guys were practising on the fields – shirts off. But the best was the day that we ran past his dorms and smelled – in all its trendy glory – CK One. I don’t know how he did it, but it was like a cloud of the stuff and we could smell it as we approached the school and smelled of it long after we had passed the property. It was amazing. Unlike Fred, who dumped me soon after because as a youngster, I wasn’t allowed to go to dances with him and he wanted a girlfriend who could. But for the rest of my school-going years, whenever I smelt some CK One, I thought of Fred and that semi-glorious run. 

Why did I even remember this now, you ask? Well, I was running, (by choice,) the other day, close to the end of August and almost Spring-time, and I was hit by a similar cloud of smell. Except, CK One is no longer the smell-de-jour. This time, it was flowering jasmine. Glorious, God-made jasmine.

I could smell it all over our neighbourhood and wondered immediately why we haven’t planted some. It is so beautiful; such an assault on the senses. Even though I was listening to beautiful music, (this morning, appropriately, it had been a mixture of Jeff Deyo and Revival in Belfast,) the smells were what motivated me. I thought back to those days of hating the run my prefects forced me to take and the fact that the only highlights were ones related to silly boys who never became anything significant in my life, and how strongly the morning runs I was taking these days contrasted.

These days, running was by choice. It was time to work on me. I could choose my music, choose my pace and choose my route. Compared to those Grade 8 runs, it was hugely liberated. I also felt motivated by different factors: the fact that I could now run up a hill that had previously been the bane of my existence, the fact that I could now run almost a full block of over a kilometre without gasping for breath, the fact that I tended to feel a little bit stiff the next day, the fact that I was starting to become a regular enough runner for the neighbourhood runners to recognise and greet me, and finally the fact that I had been running now for a full season. These factors became huge motivators. That jasmine brought home the fact that I had started running in Autumn, and now Spring was on the way.

Why was this such a big deal? Well, because I am still that thirteen year old girl who would rather jiggle a pony-tail than actually break a sweat, but I have realised the importance of making time to do something for me. And something that is good for me. Running has become a battle of the wills against myself and as I smelt that jasmine, I was encouraged to realise that I was gaining ground.   


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