I have been lucky with where I have worked. Up until recently I have had access, directly from the office, to a maze of local lanes and quiet country roads down which I could run. Sadly that is not quite the case anymore and, sadly, I cannot say that I always made the most of it when I had it. But, as Joni Mitchell didn’t say, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s almost but not quite gone.
Which translates into me getting out into the lanes as often as I could, once I knew that we would not have access to them for much longer. It also meant that I said yes to certain things that I really shouldn’t have said yes to. Such as going out for a run with a particular workmate of mine.
‘Why not?’ you may be thinking. Simply put, the reason being that he is much better at running than I am.
This is not false modesty. He just is. If I were younger (not possible) and fitter (definitely achievable) and trained as hard as he does (it could happen, but won’t), then I could have a chance at competing with him. As things stand, he is just better than me. And I know this, and I am okay with it. I cannot really explain then, why I said yes when he asked me to go with him.
‘A hilly six miles, do you think?’
‘What about that not-nearly-as-hilly six miler?’
This was not an auspicious start. We decided on the not-as-hilly option and agreed to start off at a steady pace. He clicked his watch on and set off at a rate of knots. Oh crap.
‘Definitely. Totally. Absolutely.’ (transl. there is no way I can keep this up for six miles)
We got through the first mile and a half and I was still feeling okay. The pace was manageable, I just couldn’t see that I would be able to keep it up for the whole distance. Then we started to climb.
‘It’s only a gentle hill.’
‘Gentle, yeah. Piece of cake.’ (You’re going to have to leave me in a ditch somewhere)
The hill stretched out ahead of us. It was gentle but it was sustained, and so was the pace (sustained that is, not gentle). The lungs were starting to heave that little bit harder and my heart was thumping a rather jaunty beat in my chest.
‘We will loop around in about half a mile and then we’ll hit the last hill.’ Kind words of encouragement.
‘Great!’ (I’m dying. Shoot me now.)
I huffed and I puffed my way up the hill. Like a car with an engine fault, I had entered safety mode. There was no acceleration; all power was being diverted to keeping me going with the sole purpose of getting me home again in once piece. My workmate opened up a lead and was soon glancing back over his shoulder at the widening gap between us.
‘You go on; I don’t mind,’ I shouted. (The further away you are, the less chance you’ll see me crying)
Being the kind of guy he is, he stayed with me until we were back on the hill (heading down it this time) and then, having made sure I was good to get back under my own steam, he set off for the last two and a half miles at his own pace. Which was significantly quicker than mine. I would like to say that he was in a different league to me, but I’m not even sure that we were playing the same sport.
Not to be downhearted however, I set myself a new challenge. Keep your eyes fixed on his back and keep him in sight. You can’t keep up with him, but you’re not going to let him get away completely. Make sure he stays in sight.
This challenge went well for about three minutes then I lost him around a corner and that was the last I saw of him for the rest of the run. Oh well.
Not to be defeated however, I set myself another new challenge. Imagine that he has a twin brother. A twin brother who is slightly lazier and doesn’t train quite so hard. A twin brother who is still faster than you are, but is not quite so nippy as he is. Got him? Great. Now keep him in your sights the whole way back.
And do you know what, I did. I imagined his slightly lazier twin brother in front of me the whole way back and I didn’t imagine that I lost sight of him at all. Well done me.
I arrived back red in the face and panting hard. My colleague had beaten me back by a good few minutes, but at least he hadn’t showered and made it back to his desk already. But the thing was, I enjoyed that run. I know I am never going to be as quick as he is, and that’s okay. I’m pleased for him that he is as good as he is, and I’m pleased for me that I am still able to do stupid things like that and not keel over at the end of it.
Funnily enough, though, I’ve not been out with him again since. I’m not that stupid.