I would choose, if it was safe, to run on the roads rather than the paths. The paths around here are very much the second choice for running. For a start they would appear never to have recovered from being bombed in the war: it would be uncharitable to call the craters that litter them ‘potholes’ – I think ‘fox-holes’ would be more appropriate: they are wide enough to defy hurdling and deep enough to conceal ancient Japanese soldiers who still do not know that the war is over. Dodging them pretty much doubles the distance of a run. Then, where there are no potholes, there are drives. For some reason this village specialises in driveways that merge with the road via something with sides that appear to have fallen off a rift valley. Those that do not treat you to an up and down of about six feet over a car’s width, indulge you, instead, in a headlong dive either into the road or somebody’s garden, as the whim takes them. After a ‘path run’ my knees feel like they have just done ten minutes on a bouncy castle with my grandkids – the most strenuous exercise known to man. And finally, of course, the paths have dog walkers…
I know, I know, I have been here before, but really! What is it all about? Normally if I am running in the road, providing I stick to the gutter – that’s quite enough of that, thank you – approaching cars ease out a little to give me room. I always acknowledge them. Everyone is happy. If I am on the path and have to pass anyone – a novelty for someone who runs at a speed somewhat short of walking pace – I move into the road if I can, or cross to the other side. None of this is possible when the rain means that the road is as slippery as a greased eel. I stick to the path and gauge my speed, the best I can, to pass walkers at a convenient point, causing both of us the minimum inconvenience and allowing the maximum distance. Now, I am a walker too. I do realise that walkers do not want a shagged-out senior citizen panting all over them at close quarters. It’s easily sorted. We all move a little and everyone is happy. Normally pleasantries are exchanged and the world carries on turning. Unless the walkers are attached by a leash to a dog, in which case the path becomes a kingdom to be defended. None shall pass. A laird whose territory extends exactly to the end of the pooch’s lead.
Most of what passes for rational thought when I am running, is expended on where I should be in order to cause the minimum inconvenience to other path and road users: on plotting a path that keeps everybody as safe as possible and, if possible, avoids the necessity for a trip to A&E with my leg in a makeshift splint, cunningly fashioned from pieces of the larchlap fence I have just crashed through. A walker, on seeing a runner approaching, will normally move to one side, the runner to the other and it is very easy to manufacture a point of crossing that coincides with a driveway. Two metres is an easy distance to gauge: imagine falling over; would you crack your head on the path or on the other person’s toe-cap? A walker with a dog, however, will glare and stop, with great deliberation, between driveways before moving to the very centre of the path, giving you the simple choice: go ‘dog-side’ and risk a trip through somebody’s hedge, or go ‘idiot-side’ and risk a high-wire act along the kerb whilst they glare at you and defy you to breathe their air. With the road out of bounds, the ‘full stop’ is the only way out, whilst they walk by at their leisure, snorting gently from the nose. I was actually asked today whether I was ‘allowed to be doing that’. ‘Lockdown,’ apparently, ‘is not over yet.’ I was about four hundred yards from home. I did not recognise my interrogators – who were even more ancient than me – but I’m guessing they were probably not from the village, that they drove here to walk the pooch – doubtless because they have run out of places to dump their plastic wrapped bundles of faeces closer to home.
I could have stopped to argue, but, to be quite frank, it’s such a battle to gain momentum that, once I’ve got it, I don’t want to let it go. I could have said something caustic en passant, but I’m not certain that my breathing was up to it; I could have given them a withering look, but I fear they may have thought I was having a stroke, so I settled for a cheery ‘And a good morning to you too.’ They didn’t see the irony. I must be slipping.
The whole running saga started here with ‘Couch to 5k’
Last week’s bulletin ‘The Running Man on Reasons to be Cheerful’ is here.
The next Running Man bulletin ‘…On the Go’ is here.