A love of running

LoveORunningThe two of them stood at the back of the crowd knowing that they would pretty much remain there till the end. They had hovered at the rear of the new runners, briefing clinging to the aggressive anonymity that shielded them from the world. Despite doctors orders, and the help they had received, it had been a struggle to get to this point and the last thing either wanted was the awkward incompetence of social interaction. The self doubt and self loathing; the waiting for inevitable error and public humiliation. They ran and walked the 5k.
The next week both were back – that in itself was a greater achievement than covering the distance and a testament to the nature of the event. Walking and running, they completed the now familiar route, recognising a few faces and each other. At the end they melted anonymously into the crowd, passed on their way, hardly creating a ripple amongst the folks gathered. Both shielded by their self constructed isolation, both deliberately unnoticed and unknown to each other, both knowing their place. On the third week they allowed themselves to recognise each other.
Both had clothes far too baggy for their large frames, a standard uniform of sloppy loose jogging bottoms and slogan T-shirt. One had hair that was a statement but, much as it would have sparkled for somebody with more confidence, it just added to the apparent awkwardness. Pale blue hovering over the phrase ‘I’m only wearing black till they invent a darker colour’. Above the ‘Normal people scare me’ T-Shirt was a dirty blond curly mop crowning badly NHS framed, slightly squinting eyes. A smile was exchanged, brief and furtive before they both receded into the background. In that smile both named the other for their hair, Blue and Sandy.
From then, with each week that passed the smile lasted a little longer, grew a little more confident. Other things happened too. They found that they ran for the same amount of time, walked the same inclines, grew closer to each other in the pack until without speaking or acknowledging that it had even happened they were running together. Saturday became the important day, the day when the protective mask could be allowed to slip slightly, the day when words of encouragement from strangers were not interpreted as mocking cries.
On other days of the week, in two different bedsits, lonely computers would cast their pale glow over Blue and Sandy. The Facebook page of the event would be open and messages slid down the screen where other ‘proper’ runners would discuss times and special events, the 50th run of strangers, or birthdays with running and cake. Not being able to, or even understanding how to make contact, two pairs of eyes scanned pictures and messages looking for the smile that was a Saturday morning inspiration; but people anonymous in the world are often anonymous online. Very occasionally courage would be mustered and a run in the middle of the week was tried. Sometimes it helped, the world would recede with the steady rhythm and thoughts would evaporate to a comforting mindless repetition. Still, the whole time there would be a hope for Sandy and Blue that by chance they might run into each other pounding the pavement.
Again the weeks rolled by and both Blue and Sandy were getting better at this running thing. The hills that had made them walk previously had started to lose their bite, they had got quicker without really noticing and they were no longer bringing up the rear. There was still one hill though, short and incredibly steep. Although together they managed to get further up it before they ground to a halt, they had never conquered it always needing to walk.
One morning, as they were slowing down on the incline, a small miracle occurred. Side by side, two hands touched, and then held each other. Two hearts swelled in fear and anticipation and without Sandy or Blue knowing who was doing what, they hoisted each other up the hill. Neither broke stride and the hill had been defeated together.
As they reached more level ground the hands reluctantly fell apart and as they did, anxiety and uncertainty took the opportunity to pounce. The silence between them as they ran was no longer quite as easy and comfortable, a conversation hovered waiting and neither party really wanted to have it. Lost in their own heads they fell back on something that this running had taught them, running harder makes your brain work less. Their pace picked up. It was not a race, both of them were trying to escape from the same thing and they still kept pace with each other. Any conversation was banished by the effort, even if they had been willing neither was capable of speech any more, and still they worked harder.
It had never been like this before, at the beginning this had been all about the weight doctors had insisted they lose, then it had become the ritual of Saturday morning. A day of the week when awkwardness was almost forgotten and they felt like they belonged without any pressure to conform. This… this was a sheer release of physical power and pent up frustrations in a burst of hard work. This was possibly the first time either of them had ever been truly alive.
Stride for stride they rounded the last bend and onto the final 200 metres. Glancing at each other anxiety had gone, replaced by huge beaming grins, full of hope and hard work. Eyes made contact and they both understood. This was when to push at boundaries, forget every other worry or problem, put everything into this one moment. The legs sped up, moving faster than ever, – almost too quick for the bodies they carried and, in a wordless frenzy, Blue and Sandy fell across the line and into each other’s arms.
“We didn’t walk once!”
“We bloody did it!”
“Fancy coffee?”
“Yes”

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2 thoughts on “A love of running

    1. Thanks, I really tried to capture the spirit and attitude I could see in my early days of Parkrun. Really glad you enjoyed it and please share with anyone else who you think might enjoy it too.

      Liked by 1 person

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