He couldn't exactly say when it had become a habit-John couldn't imagine going through a day without it now-but he would never forget that first night, sitting in darkness and silence, the weight of it all leaving him lethargic and depressed and so bloody pathetic that he hated himself.
It had been an experiment at first, something he'd seen on the telly once, a commercial for running shoes, probably, but it was incentive enough. Anything would have been. And once he was pushing against the night air, lungs burning and legs cramping and the cold practically tearing at his throat, he knew he wouldn't be able to give it up.
It was a sort of drug, harsh and painful, a deliberate kind of masochism that kept getting less and less as time went on, and John couldn't get enough of it, ran anywhere that was within distance, and farther sometimes if he could help it. The easier it got, the more he ran, little escapes here and there that evolved into daily and even nightly routines.
He couldn't say exactly why he enjoyed it so much, either, especially in the beginning, when barely a block was too much, every pulse of his feet against the pavement a reminder of how old he was, how tired he was. Maybe it was the feeling of getting stronger, like if his body could right itself then his heart and mind could too. Maybe it was the rhythm of it, no music, no audiobook, just the sound of his own ragged breathing and his blood pulsing heavily in his ears. But more likely, it was because of memories of chasing down taxis on foot, or running after mad scientists, or feigning a hostage situation and escaping from the cops. There had never been any shortage of running with Sherlock. Maybe, more than anything else, he missed it.
No, that wasn't what he missed. He knew that much and always would. But maybe that was why he loved the running. It kept him close to Sherlock in some way. Which kept John from missing him, even if it was only for an hour or two.
Eventually John found himself here, the sun barely an hour over the horizon, the air crisp and refreshing, waking him up. Pinning the number to his sweatshirt, he headed towards the group of people gathering at the edge of the park. It was always going to end up here, he thought, since the first jog around the block. Even if he hadn't known it then, it was obvious now. But it was still hard. Hard to keep up with the runners much younger than him, harder to push through all the way to the end. Harder still after the five mile run, when they released the doves into the sky, in memory of everyone lost. But John was glad that he'd come, thought maybe he'd put his name down as a volunteer for next year. Because running was a part of his life now. And these 5k or 10k runs for Suicide Awareness made him feel a part of something again, like he wasn't running away anymore.
More like he was running towards something for the first time in a long time.