I bet you were worried.
My sudden, terrifying disappearance.
Two whole days missed. No kilometres logged on RunningFree. My second place in the leaderboard becoming third. Then fourth. Then fifth. I could hear the hushed whispers…. Has it all got too much for him? Has his body crumbled under the strain? Has he been hit by a small white Peugeot van and smeared messily across the French tarmac? Has he been spirited to the fourth dimension by a 16 foot talking beetroot wearing a fake moustache?
No. None of these things.
There have been a few technical issues, now resolved. When I say “technical issues” I mean an issue of me not using technology to provide updates because of my general laziness.
However, my distances have now been logged, and I stand proud on 137km so far this month (on foot) and 49km (on the bike). This puts me comfortably back in second. Hopelessly adrift of fletchea, granted, but not out of the running (ho!) completely. To be fair, I don’t see fletchea doing any pedalling, so I think I should get to add my bike distance and running distance together. Sounds fair no?
It was an interesting run today. Well, I ran 12km this morning and then another 9km tonight, but the latter was the more interesting of the two. I changed my night running strategy today. I figured that running late at night isn’t without risks. I live in the middle of nowhere. It’s quite feasible that if I set off for a long run at 11pm on a day with the temperature below freezing, and fell into a ditch and broke my ankle I could perish of hypothermia before I encountered another human being. I should point out that I wear the same thing if it’s 30 above or 10 below. Shorts, T-shirt, socks, shoes. It’s warm enough if you’re running, but the moment you stop? Ooooh boy. I suppose I could wear full length lycra leggings and one of those puffy running jackets but I’m far too stylish for that. Even if it means certain death if I stop running.
Anyway, while running through scenarios in my mind of me being chipped out of an ice block in 500,000 years time by a future civilization and pondered over (“what was the sparkling bracelet upon his foot? Was it perhaps a mating ritual?“) I decided to experiment with running 5km circuits close-in to my house, figuring that even if I broke my ankle I could probably crawl home before becoming entombed as a human mammoth.
Amazingly I encountered some runners! Real ones. I occasionally see a few people shuffling round in shell-suits puffing and wheezing like an old steam tractor, but my strategy to go round and round the local village finally put me in sync with two local people who seemed to know how to run properly. Being France what could have been a lovely moment where two groups of people could meet and share a singular love of a sport was instead a bizarre social encounter which left me puzzled for a while afterwards.
First of all one of the runners (both male) was wearing a luminous sports bra. Let us call him Pierre and his friend Jean-Paul (I have no idea what they were called, but it seems reasonable). Neither Pierre or Jean-Paul had torches or generally fluorescent running gear. Considering it was pitch-black this seemed peculiar. The only means of alerting passing cars to their presence was the luminous sports bra. Admittedly he was wearing it over a T-shirt, but even so… It’s not really pertinent to the story, but I thought I’d mention it.
After we had exchanged pleasantries, I enquired how far they were intending to run. 15km, came the entirely reasonable reply. Did they run all the time? I asked excitedly (having never seen anyone in about 2 years of running in the area who looked like they took the sport at all seriously). Oh yes! came the reply. Every Tuesday and Thursday, and sometimes Wednesday at 6pm. Now, I can’t be sure this is a lie, but considering I’ve run through the village at about 6pm about 200 times and NEVER SEEN ANYONE EVER I thought this was a bit odd.
We chatted a bit, but whether I was invited to join them in the future or not, I don’t know….
This is what puzzles me. I taught a French class the other day (well, I taught a class of French people about English) and we talked a lot about the differences in culture between France and the UK in terms of social interaction. For example. In France the phrase “Oh yes! I’d be delighted if you wanted to come and stay at my house! Stay as long as you like!” actually, genuinely means “come and stay at my house as long as you like!“
In the UK the phrase “Oh yes! I’d be delighted if you wanted to come and stay at my house! Stay as long as you like!” means “stay in my house for 2 or 3 days tops, after two weeks the sight of you will make me want to vomit and if you stay any longer I will personally stab you to death when you sleep with a rusty screwdriver“.
The French don’t understand this. Their social interactions are very blunt, rather than a tapestry of little white lies. But they also sometimes say very little and expect you to decipher meaning from tiny gobbets of information. It could be that by proffering information on the exact timing and location of their mini-running club that they would be delighted for me to tag along in future. They might even expect it. I don’t know. It’s all very confusing.
But anyway, apart from the luminous sports-bra I was shocked at their relative lack of lighting or visibility equipment. When I enquired as to why this was Pierre said he knew the road like the back of his hand. Which is fine I guess. But when it’s pitch black you actually need to find the road you know like the back of your hand before you can demonstrate your hand-related knowledge of said road. He seemed adamant that head torches were bourgeois accoutrements and entirely unnecessary . I didn’t argue. One thing you learn early on in life is never argue with a Frenchman wearing a luminous sports bra.
A maxim for life. You might want to write that down.
We ran together for 5 or 6km before we parted. The set off up the main road, disappearing into the rain, cloud and light fog with only a thin strip of luminous bra-strap keeping them alive. It was a peculiar meeting and one that lingered long after it had finished.
The question remains – do I run tomorrow at 6pm, try to meet up with them and try to learn more about these mysterious, phantom runners, guided purely by glowing lingerie. Or should I continue to run alone?
I think we both know the answer to that.