Born to Sing, Born to Run

When I was 11, my grandparents sent out their annual Christmas letter and, in their summary of various family members, said of me: 

Chorister and cross-country runner. Budding feminist and political activist. Looks like an angel but packs a punch. POW!

While I no longer look as angelic as my 11 year old blonde locks suggested, I like to think not much has changed. I am a feminist and I certainly haven't stopped singing or running; it's just cross city rather than cross country these days. 

This week I ran the second of my 2017 Two Marathon Challenge. The first was the Brighton Marathon in April, but this second marathon was organised by me with a bit of a twist: family and friends joined me for sections of the 26.2 mile route to make up a marathon relay team. 

Anna after the Brighton Marathon in April 2017 (LEFT) and finishing her marathon relay in May 2017 (RIGHT)

Anna after the Brighton Marathon in April 2017 (LEFT) and finishing her marathon relay in May 2017 (RIGHT)

It was a wonderful event, filled with camaraderie and high spirits and it got me thinking; running and singing, these two things I've been doing all my life, share so much.
Wondering what on earth I'm talking about? Read on…

Born to Sing / Born to Run

We were all born to sing, just as we were all born to run. 

From the moment we're born, we express ourselves with our voice. We learn through singing. Singing provides a soundtrack to our lives and we sing along with it; at weddings, funerals, on the radio, in our cars, in the shower. You don’t have to be on a stage to sing. We all sing every day.  

We can all do it. It's instinctive, and it's FREE.

From the moment we can walk, we can run. As children we spend our time exploring what our body can do and expressing ourselves with it. We run around the school playground, we chase our friends, we run for the bus, we run across the road.

We can all do it. It's instinctive, and it's FREE.

But for so many of us, these natural born skills and primal forms of expression and communication are drilled out of us by school, by work, and by life. Yet there are so many positive aspects of these two most visceral and democratic commodities that have brought me to the conclusion that running and singing share so much. 

Wellbeing

We've talked countless times on this blog about how singing, particularly group singing, can improve your wellbeing. From the endorphin boost, to the mindfulness of deep breathing, singing allows you to express yourself and fills you up with happiness time and again. Whether you're working towards a performance or creating harmony (in every sense) together, singing is joyful for the soul. 

Do you know what? So is running. In 2011, when my world was thrown off course by a serious bout of OCD, it was running that brought me back. The endorphins, the deep breathing, the expression of self. Sound familiar? Whether I was working towards a race or just putting one foot in front of the other in training, running kept my head level, my feet grounded, and reminded me I was still here. 

Community and Connection

One of our favourite sayings at Starling Arts is that ‘Community is everything’. The connective power of both singing and running provides you with a place to feel supported, safe, and valued. And I’m not just talking about being valued by others. Singing and running make you value yourself. They help you look after you, they help you work through problems, keep you connected to the earth, and to those around you. They give you a sense of belonging, whether it's to a choir, a run club, in a performance or a race, in the moments of practising our harmonies at home or pounding the pavements in training, we are bound by a sense of duty to our community. The structure of rehearsal or a training schedule helps us to be more efficient in managing other areas of our life, and both activities fill our world with friends and fans aplenty. 

I have shared as many sweaty hugs in the wings of a theatre as I have at the finish line of a race. Why? Because it's a shared experience and something I couldn't have got through without all those people around me. Without our musicians, technicians, audience, and other singers, my choir community would be nothing. Without race organisers, cheerers, marshals, and other runners, my running community would be nothing. 

Our TEDx Talk, Why the world needs to sing is not too dissimilar in its message about community and connection to Charlie Dark of Run Dem Crew’s TEDx Talk, It's not how fast you go, it's how you cross the finish line.

And that's just it! It's not how fast you run and it's not how well you sing. It's about the very act of singing or running, the people it connects you to, and the journey you take together. 

It's no wonder I chose to run this week's marathon with my family and friends running alongside me. Running in a pack and singing in a pack are as natural to me as eating, sleeping, and breathing.

Perhaps that's the reason these two activities have stayed with me so long and will hopefully continue to be a part of my life for as long as my legs and vocal cords hold out. 

Whether you choose to sing or run - or do both like me - just get out there, fill up those lungs, and let the endorphins work their magic.