Running came into my life, properly, in 2010. It was a shit year: all of a sudden I had broken up with a long-term boyfriend, my grandpa had died and I’d left Scotland and was back living at my parents; house and waitressing in a café. I would drive up the A1 to work every day and I remember crying so much I couldn’t see the road. It was the year I got so drunk I nearly knocked my front tooth out on a pavement, woke up with blood in my mouth.

When I was moping around, Mum would tell me to go for a run and I’d put my trainers on and plod off along the river and through the fields. I’d come home better – less tightly wound. The fields felt bigger when I ran, the past year less disastrous.

I’d entered the Great North Run on a total whim: Fabs, Davo, Katie and I, and Nick, one of Davo’s friends from uni. I had no clue what to expect but I had a training plan that I’d printed off the internet and would fit runs in around shifts at the cafe, plugging in my ipod and taking myself off along the back roads and the tracks around the village where I grew up.

Someone said I should join the local running club and on my first night I was so nervous I nearly turned the car around to go home. I was in the lowest group with a group of gossiping women who all flirted with John, the leader. We ran for an hour around my high school town, doing splits and encouraging each other up the hills. I didn’t say much but put my head down and it felt good.



Now I have run half marathons, trail runs, a marathon. I feel so strong when I run – like I can do anything. Sometimes I’m slow and I feel rubbish but at some point I’ll get into the swing of things and then it’ll be good.

When Al and I lived together and if I was fannying around deliberating whether to go out into the cold and when to put my put on my trainers, she would say to me “when have you ever regretted a run?” So we’d put our trainers on and go out into the night around Finsbury Park and Stamford Hill and Highbury, our breath like plumes in the cold and our footsteps loud on the slick pavements.

Some of my best memories are when I’ve been running: dawn and dusks over London’s skyline, along the summer canals green with weed with Ian, with the girls on Berneray being pushed against the wind.

I’ve run in Northumberland and London, Crete and Dundee, Glasgow, Manchester and Edinburgh, and the sparkling blue beads of the Hebrides. Like Sian said to me the other day, running is like a thread, a string, a spine that goes through everything.



But now, as I’ve been writing this, I remember that I used to run when I was younger. These memories dredge themselves up from somewhere: volunteering on the water stall on the Coastal Run, watching my mum in her forties crossing finish lines, the cross-country at school with the air like ice in my lungs, Al and I running around the airfield with Mum with the promise of chocolate milkshakes afterwards keeping us going. My heart like a huge drum – POUND POUND POUND – in my chest as I ran.

And then I stopped.

Hit puberty, got boobs, worried about how I looked, didn’t choose GCSE PE or was part of the sporty group of girls at high school. How many girls were the same, and how long does it take to come back?



Not much to say now, and maybe I’m overthinking it. Like tonight: it’s freezing in London at the moment, that kind that makes you catch at your breath when you step outside. It’s dark at half four, work isn’t that easy and I’m stressed about the wedding and money. Making lists of things that need done and trying to work out when I can sort them.

So I put on a hat and tie my laces and go up through London Fields, over Dalston and the back way to Green Lanes forgetting the things I need to forget, tracing more lines across this city of ours.


Thank you, Sian for asking me to write this, glad I did. 

2 thoughts on “some words on running

  1. Dear Birdwing, Good to read your voice again, and to see that you have once more taken flight and carried us along too. Keep writing!!

    Might you mention these readings, somehow, somewhere?

    In Solidarity,

    10th Anniversary Readings For Al-Mutanabbi Street, On Or About March 5th 2017

    1. In San Francisco, California On March 4th – The Poet Tamsin Smith will Coordinate a Reading with Poets and Writers at her home.

    2. In New Haven, Connecticut On March 4th – The Activist/Writer And Art Critic Stephen Kobasa will Coordinate a Reading at 12:30 at the Institute Library.

    3. In Washington, D.C. On March 4th at 4pm – The Poet/Educator Casey Smith Will Coordinate A Reading at Petworth Citizen, 829 Upshur St. NW

    4. In Bristol, U.K. On March 4th starting at 12:30pm – 1st floor, The Island gallery space, Nelson Street, Bristol, BS1 2LE, UK. – The Artist/Educator/Activist Sarah Bodman Will Coordinate A Reading

    5. In Sydney, Australia -The artist/activist Catherine Cartwright and the artist/activist Rodrigo Azaola are organizing a reading – performance art event for al-Mutanabbi Street at Yaranabbe Park in Rushcutters Bay, Sydney Australia for 2pm on Sunday 5th March.

    6. In Steamboat Springs, Colorado On March 5th – The Artist/Activist Janet Bradley Will Coordinate A Reading

    7. In Saint Jerome, Quebec, Canada On March 1st – The Educator/Activist Elyse Dupras Will Coordinate A Reading At The College Where She Teaches. This reading will be in French, Arabic, and English

    8. In London, U.K. On Thursday 2 March 2017 – A Literary Salon for Al-Mutanabbi Street, Time: 18:30 – 20:00 Location: The Arab British Centre1 Gough Square, London,

    9. In Tucson, Arizona on March 5th – The Artist/Educator/Filmmaker/Curator Ozlem Ozgur Will Coordinate A Reading

    10. In Berlin, Germany on March 5th – The Printer/Educator/Activist Andrew Morrison Will Coordinate A Reading With Students From The U.K.

    11. In Newcastle, U.K. on March 5th – The Artist/Activist Theresa Easton Will Coordinate A Reading

    12. In Dearborn, Michigan on March 5th – At The Arab American National Museum (In Their Library) Coordinated by the Poet/Activists Dunya Mikhail and Alise Alousi

    13. In Baghdad, Iraq on March 5th – At the historic Shabandar Cafe on al-Mutanabbi street – Coordinated by the poet/activist Amal Al-Jubouri and her Soutuna project

    14. In Dubai, U.A.E. at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature on the 5th of March – Coordinated by Hend Saeed the Arabic program organizer for the festival. This reading will be in Arabic and English

    15. In Washington D.C. to be broadcast on March 5th -Our good friends at EPIC will devote a podcast in their IRAQ MATTERS series that focuses on the 10th anniversary of the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street. Mark Seamen of EPIC will coordinate this reading of poets and writers.

    16. In Vancouver, Canada on March 5th – A reading coordinated by the Journalist/Author Hadani Ditmars.

    17. in Berkeley, California on March 8th. A reading at Moe’s Books coordinated by the writer/activist Summer Brenner and the poet/writer/activist Owen Hill.

    18. In San Francisco, California on March 5th. A reading at The Great Overland Book Company from 3:30 – 5pm, coordinated by the poet/activist Beau Beausoleil and the educator/artist/activist Andrea Hassiba

    19, In Palo Alto, California on March 5th. A reading (and possibly a project related workshop) at Cubberly Studios from 4-6 p.m. Coordinated by the artists/activists Nanette Wylde, Servane Briand and Paloma Lucas

    20. In Milwaukie, Oregon on March 4th. A reading at the Pond House at 2:00 PM, sponsored by the Milwaukie Poetry Series of the Ledding Library, Coordinated by Baher Butti and Muwafaq Qatan

    21. In Portland, Oregon on March 5th – A reading at the Central Library (downtown Portland) at 2:00 PM followed by an Iraqi commemorative celebration sponsored by the Iraqi Society of Oregon and the Iraqi Student Club at Portland State University. Coordinated by Baher Butti and Muwafaq Qatan

    22 In Los Angeles, California, on March 5th Coordinated by The Markaz Arts Center for the Greater Middle East a reading with 10 poets and writers at Chevalier’s Books, 120 North Larchmont Blvd, The program is cosponsored by the Los Angeles Review of Books.

    23. In Oakland, California, on March 23rd – A reading at the Octopus Literary Salon, at 2101 Webster Street (at 22nd St.) at 7pm. Coordinated by the writer/activist Joe Lamb

    24. In Paris, France, on March 5th – A reading organized by the academic/activist Adina Rulu. The location to be announced in the next few weeks.

    25. In Santa Fe, New Mexico on March 31st – A public performance of a musical piece, Words in the Wind (for al-Mutanabbi Street) composed by the musician/composer/academic/activist Melanie Monsour. The location will be at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design, O’Shaughnessy Performance space in Benildus Hall.

    26. In Fairfax, Virginia on February 7th – A reading for al-Mutanabbi Street at the Fenwick Gallery, part of the Fenwick Library at George Mason University. Coordinated by Nahid and Nasrin Navab as part of their gallery exhibit, Flying Words.

    27. In San Francisco on March 6th- A reading for al-Mutanabbi Street at Bird & Beckett Bookstore, 7-9pm. Coordinated by Eric Whittington, bookstore owner and activist.

    28. In Venice, Italy, on March 3rd, a reading at Scuola Internazionale di Grafica Venezia, coordinated by Roberta Feoli Artist/Activist and Printshop and studio manager at Scuola.

    29. In Brattleboro, Vermont, on March 3rd, a reading at Everyone’s Books, 25 Elliot Street, coordinated by the activist Kate Casa

    30. In Waitsfield, Vermont, a reading on March 5th at “a big family house” coordinated by the artist/activist Cecilia Bucca

    31. In Buffalo, New York, a reading on March 15th at Talking Leaves Books, starting at 7pm – coordinated by the artist/activist Donna Stepien

    32. In Warren, Michigan, a reading on Friday, February 24th, 7PM at Ryan Palace, 4300 E. 14 Mile Road (Warren Michigan) presented by The Mesopotamian Forum for Art and Culture. This reading will be entirely in Arabic

    33. In Boston, Massachusetts, at Artheads Studio,, 29 Leicester St., Brighton Center, a reading for al-Mutanabbi Street on March 5th, 3 till 5pm as part of the “Art for a Change” art and activism project – This reading coordinated by the artist/educator/activist Ronni Komarow

    34. Your Reading Listed Here

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