Last night’s 15k was always going to be bad. I wasn’t in the mood for it before I started, I had not eaten properly, and it was already 9pm before I left the house. Add to this my preferred running gear was in the wash, my foot was hurting and I was still achy from my previous runs this week.
But something in my head was telling me to get out there. That noble voice that says you’ll feel better for it, you’ve got a marathon coming up, that tells you to run even when you don’t want to is better, is somehow an achievement. So, against my better judgement, I ran.
I felt sluggish from the off, but quickly fell into a standard 7:30 / mile pace. Although I wasn’t particularly enjoying the run, I kept going. The thought occurred to me that maybe I would feel better if I ran longer. Even now, this doesn’t make any sense. I guess that I was trying to get something positive out of the run.
Down to Liverpool street a little slower than normal, and at London Bridge a full minute behind my normal pace, I decided to run over to Tower Bridge.
When I got there, I turned around and ran back. Not something I’ve done before, I usually run in a loop. The stairs at London Bridge nearly finished me. I ran up the first flight, feeling like Rocky, but the second set was torture. I barely made it to the top.
I continued on my run, and was back at Liverpool street when I took a tumble. I’ve only ever fallen a couple of times whilst running, the worst spill a few years back when I lived out in the country, and ended up in a drainage ditch by the side of the road.
I assume I hit a curb or something tonight, but I stumbled, and barely managed to stay on my feet. I continued running, but within a few yards pulled up with a pain in my foot. The fourth toe on my right foot had lost it’s nail last week (the one that was hanging on by sentiment alone – remember that?) and I had managed to hurt in my near fall. There’s a lot of pain there, even now, even if I have nothing to show for it.
I tried running again several times, but just could not muster the will. Catchphrases and motivational posters beamed themselves into my head, but it just wasn’t happening. It’s a long walk home when you’re defeated.
And then… He appeared.
I called him Lieutenant Dan in the headline, but he could just as well have been Jesus if I was religious. Hair down to his shoulders, and a thick Grizzly Adams beard. He wasn’t that fast, in fact I would have usually run past him in the hope of deflating him completely, giving him the gazelle treatment. But tonight, I was broken.
He ran past, at his slower-than-me pace, and it was like a red rag to a bull. I ignored the pain as I resolved to catch him and annihilate him. Which I did. I then panicked as I thought that now he was behind me, and I had embarrassed him, I would have to keep running to make sure he stayed there.
The pain in my foot suddenly came back into my thoughts, and I pulled up and started walking. A minute or two later, Lieutenant Dan was running past me again. I smiled a little, and began running, without really trying to catch him this time.
At a set of traffic lights a little later, we were waiting side by side. I removed my headphones, and tapped him on the shoulder.
“Hey man. How far you going?” I asked.
“From Liverpool Street, about six miles. You?”
“15k tonight, but I’m dying. I hurt my foot back there and am really struggling.” I pointed to my foot as I said this, forgetting that it had a large blood stain on it from my previous adventures. He took this as the issue.
“Wow. Looks bad, man.”
“Look, I haven’t got far to go, but I need some motivation. If you don’t mind, I’m going to shadow you just to get me home. Cool?”
“Sure thing, man. Whatever gets you through.”
The lights changed and we were off. Lieutenant Dan cruised at his pace, and I tried not to get in his way, running just off his shoulder.
We didn’t really talk any more while running, other than a few pleasantries, but I was soon turning off for home, and thanked him and waved him on. In turn, he wished me luck with the marathon.
I got home and inspected my toe. No real outward sign of any new damage, so I’ll just have to suck it up. More importantly, there are no new blisters at all, which is outstanding.
It was an unusual experience, running with someone else and not having to beat them. Sure, I’ve run with Kasia, but never really run with anyone else to keep pace. It could have so easily been an adversarial run, with us trying to compete, and ending up thinking bad things about the other, but in the end, it was a great run, even if I didn’t enjoy it up until that point.
I think I need to find me a running buddy or two.