Loughborough, United Kingdom
In hindsight, I may have dallied in England a little too long. Seeing that sentence suggests I’ve certainly been reading romantic fiction for too long, floweriness pervading my thoughts even as “oh god, a novel about love set around the writing of a novel” runs through my head. (One Summer, Rachel Billington, if you’re curious.)
I had planned a multi stage trip to the midlands and, in bad news for story telling but good news for my sense of smugness, all worked perfectly. For the last few weeks I’ve been clearing out old magazine, book, console and Amiga detritus that is worth a few quid but doing no more than sitting on a shelf. The feeling of clearing space and turning whatever was there into cash, even where that’s just a few pounds, is a combination of brain-clearing and the joy of entrepreneurship. The final step, then, was to drop off my old Amiga 4000 and pick up a couple of hundred quid in cash. Perfect, though I didn’t linger in the town-just turning in to the street, small terraced houses in need of some loving attention, gave me a feeling of decay, and while my buyer was a lovely friendly man, I couldn’t help wondering whether others look at me the way I looked at him. He seemed happy with his lot, divorced and rediscovering a love of amigas, but with single men of a certain age the sense of loss outweighs others. It probably bears no relation to how people feel, but that makes it worse, really-if someone is perfectly happy but others look at them and see only missed opportunities, or (perhaps more accurately) a life that doesn’t fit a pattern they understand, that person may never be able to shape their own image. I’m sure of my direction in life, insofar as I can say I have one, but that doesn’t necessarily define how others see me.
Enough thoughtfulness, radio 4 comedy cleared my head in the next trip, just up the road to Broxtowe country park, Nottingham, where I’d found a 5k. From somewhere I’d got the idea this would be a small event; I’m sure I’d seen last year’s results but this was actually the first running. Nevertheless, after a couple of hours exploring the park and reading-nothing like being in good time for an evening run-the competition had arrived. Barring one youngster in a club vest, it looked like my race. With only 26 of us there was plenty of space on the start line and I put aside my usual desire to tuck in behind the front runners to line up on he front line. Without the youngster. Unusually for me, I took the lead early, yomping up the hill for about 1k before a turn around the park. Frying pan shaped, with the handle about 800m long, this would be a lovely, if gruelling, run on the sunny day we didn’t have, though we ran without rain. After the long run up hill, the course takes two turns around the park proper and though we’d been warned that youths had moved signs, by the time we were running, five marshals were enough to guide us round. The only problem, in fact, was the steep hill down at the end of the lap and taking the grassy side proved a mistake, with me finishing the descent on my knees-gracefully, mind, in front of a marshal. Looking back, I had it won from the start, but you never know when some bandit is hanging fire, and I’m far from being quick enough to hold off a starlet. Still, it was a comfortable win, and the time, 17:57, would have chuffed me massively if I hadn’t spotted that at the 3k marker my watch said 2.8, at 4, 3.8 etc. I can’t think we missed a bit, possibly it was originally measured from the very beginning of the path, rather than where we started. My prize was first pick from the wine bottles, and the honour of a new course record, though you could hyphenate those three words either way and be correct.
A nice detour, though, and my second ever race win-after last year’s Haileybury 10k. Final destination, Hartington, and a YHA for the night. A boob-the Peak District is one of my favourite places, and I really should have allowed longer. The hall itself is also stunning, and Bonnie Prince Charlie stayed there, albeit on the run, so probably not enjoying the scenery overmuch. I had some trouble checking-in-the instruction to go through to the bar was clear, but that the canteen doubled as the bar wasn’t, so the various groups hanging around in library and hallway had time, in between putting children to bed, to watch some twit in shorts-shorts! In this weather!-walking the corridors several times. I was sharing a dorm with a pair who were happy to chat, though-Peter and his grandfather. The latter was happy to talk running, having been a decent 800 and 1500 runner for Notts in his day, while Peter was rightly much more impressed with their 20mile bike ride that day. Out-10miles slightly downhill, and clear. Back-slightly up, into wind and rain.
Summary: racing, yeah.