I hibernate in Winter. Not so much during the day, but as soon as the light goes I retreat into the heart of the house, close the curtains, light the fire and draw the night around me. During the day I am the opposite: I buzz about, expansive. The cold energy invigorates and enlivens. I don't like being still indoors during winter days any more than I do in summer.
This weekend we decided to do the Giant Mousse Hill run again but with a few extra miles thrown in to make it a Nice Round Ten. I've not run ten miles before. It's only three shy of a Half Marathon, which as you may recall is my target for next year.
We set off across the fields early on Sunday in bitingly cold air, reasonably well wrapped considering we'd got a long run ahead, in layers that could be removed. The buzzard who lives in the Ash Stand floated out over the field beside the Green Lane as he always does. The dogs rushed off down the hill to sniff at bunny tracks and stare at a flock of distant seagulls peppering a far field, debating their chances of reaching them before the whole lot took off.
I kept pace with M. I felt stronger, in a better rhythm than the last time we came this way. I knew I was working well, everything felt smooth and simple, not ragged and full of effort.
The fields were cold as we ran the tracks high up onto the Chalk. We kept pace with the wind that numbed our hands through our gloves and etched cold circles with malicious fingers of deliberate intent on our cheeks. Flocks of Linnets, rosy-tinted above blond feathers, skittered into the grey-burdened sky, exploding from the land at our feet where they had been invisible until movement gave them form. Rotting mushrooms collapsed into oozing sores in the field margins, slippery pools hidden among lumps of bitter flint, hard-edged and callous. The dried stalks of umbellifers, desiccated into crispness as the moisture of summer withdrew, whipped against us, scratching at our skin and snapping into brittle pieces that crumbled when we brushed them away.
Brambles tugged at our feet and thorns nipped at our legs and ankles as we came off the side of the hill down into the wood where tall beeches traced the line of an ancient road. Mud sucked at us in the valley bottom where a small stream snaked across a formerly dry path. Down the Green Lane tree roots writhed in the concealment of semi-darkness afforded by the tightly interlaced fingers of the trees.
We ran up mud-cloaked, crop-stripped hills, tiring when our shoes became weighed-down with the clagginess of turned soil, and used grassy tracks to relieve them of the burden, the moisture on the stalks washing the mud away so that our feet felt free and light again and movement became unrestricted pleasure once more.
Seven miles in we trotted down country lanes side-by-side in a steady rhythm, each with a dog lead in hand and a dog running ahead. We crossed through elegant parkland where Curious Cows grazed quietly beneath stately Cedars, the ramshackle fence suggestive of faded grandeur and other, perhaps better kept times. We ran through pastures where horses, lying down in the dewy chill of early morning looked up at us and frowned.
Over fallen trees and under stooping branches. Across puddles gathered in the pockmarks of five-hundred-year-old farmyards. Over gates and under fences. Beside strips of woodland and along the edges of fields. High on the hills and low in the valleys. Exposed and covered. Crunching fallen cob nuts underfoot. Breath for talking, then not, then again. And always, beside, beneath and through it all the steady, simple, reliable rhythm of running; something tangible with which to combat the seductive, silken whispers of tiredness.
We were out for one hour, forty minutes and at the end of it, I'd completed my first ten mile run. I ran the last three miles alone, recognising that I was tired and knowing I am better at Keeping Going under those circumstances when not in company.
I was weary afterwards, my legs ached a bit and my toe nails were a little bruised, but not for long. My husband, who was waiting for me with the car when I finished, and of whose running abilities I am in total, utter and complete awe, paid me the greatest compliment of all by saying at the end you could run a half marathon, no sweat.
The slice of homemade apple pie was my reward, in case you were wondering :o)
Hope you're all faring well?