“In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer”
– Albert Camus
It was with great apprehension I changed into my “oh so little” running shorts after work this week. It was 8 pm and the world outside was dark. As I looked up from the inhuman, electric blue glow of my computer screen to the world outside, the windows had been replaced by a depressing film of inky blank.
Where did the world go?
My escape from the modernised trappings of the office environment had been stolen from me. It is at this moment I felt a lifetime from the swirling oranges and greens of the trails. The harsh peaks of the Lake District and rutted paths of the South Downs seemed like vague memories. Instead, it was just me and the artificial buzz of the call-room floor.
This is not to say I don’t enjoy running in the evenings. I do it quite a lot. The issue comes in the contrast. I have spent months of longer days, warmer weather and a summer that just never seemed to end. I’ve been spoilt.
“And so with the sunshine and the great bursts of leaves growing on the trees, just as things grow in fast movies, I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer”
– F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby
Now however, the days are short. I leave for work: it’s dark. Head home: it’s dark. Throughout the day, the light is artificial. At points I worry I might gaze at a mirror and find I have somehow lost my own reflection.
Perhaps I should just fully commit to this line of thought and replace the office space for a nice comfy coffin? Blood can’t taste that bad, right?
Anyhow, back to the point. After a pretty laborious eleven hour shift, I found myself in the cramped confines of the disabled toilets, in a half stupor, fumbling my way into a somewhat less than appropriate pair of shorts. It was with a grimace I replaced my hoodie with a vest.
Next was the light. Running buff on, I snapped the elasticated band of my head torch into place. Clicking the switch I checked the light was working. Looking into the mirror I saw a gangling, vascular mess topped off with a flashing light upon their head screaming out to any onlookers,
“WARNING! TWAT INCOMING!”
With a certain degree of trepidation I slipped out into the darkness. My hands shaken by the cold, I fumbled with my headphones. Fuck! I’d forgotten to charge them, Tay Tay* would have to wait. Instead I’d just have to listen to my surroundings.
As I set off the first thing I notice is the sounds of the wind. God it sounds angry, like it’s tearing apart the trees around me. For a moment I’m nervous. The route I’m taking has me surrounded by trees and I’m genuinely concerned that a falling branch might become the death of me.
This gets me thinking about Willy Russell’s exceptional play, Education Rita:
Frank: “Man killed by falling tree” is not a Tragedy.
Rita: It is for the poor sod under the tree!
– Willy Russell, Educating Rita
At this moment, I couldn’t help but side with Rita.
As if the threat of imminent death wasn’t enough, it started to rain. Urgh! I still had about four miles to go. With my legs in their current state, that was about thirty two minutes of running. Joy. Thirty two minutes until I would be home, in the warm, enjoying a nice hot dinner.
Rather than dwell on this rather unfortunate fact I kept my head down and proceeded to push onward.
The rain lashed against my bare shoulders. I felt the wet, cascading cold slowly envelope the entirety of my back, my vest beginning to stick to me. To make matters worse, this was the end of a particularly high mileage week and every step sent shrill, angry reverberations up through my legs to my now throbbing glutes.
Why do I do this again?
Soon I passed over a bridge crossing the motorway. The dark was lit up by a multitude of car lights whipping past. They seemed to bleed into the darkness like an oil painting. Taken aback I stopped and looked out over commuters below. In the last couple months I had ran this route countless times.
Today however, it seemed like I was looking out upon it for the first time. I don’t know if it was the dark, the rain in my eyes or the ever mounting fatigue, but it seemed as if I was looking at my journey home through a whole new lense. My mundane, everyday commute had taken on an almost kaleidoscopic beauty.
As I continued to push forwards, I unintentionally picked up the pace. My chin lifted as the colours of the numerous traffic lights and Christmas decorations swirled around me. I grew more and more alert. It was the most awake I had felt in days.
The cold and the rain brought me ever closer to the world around me. This wasn’t just some pretty backdrop, but a living breathing reality and I was a part of it. As these thoughts sparked in my brain I realised something.
Whilst running in the pleasant weather of the summer had been nice, I had been plugging in my headphones and slipping into autopilot. I had not been giving as much thought to my surroundings or the feeling of my stride. Running had very much grown both physically, and emotionally formulaic.
The last few miles seeming to fly I rounded the corner into my street. Grabbing the buff from my head I wiped away the water from eyes and stepped into the warm glow of my house. Gazing into the mirror, I found I did indeed have a reflection. One of a still gangling, vascular drowned rat.
In the presence of the dark and the rain, away from the LED artificiality of the computer, I had found my pulse. Still beating. Still smiling.
Heading to my room I decided to forgo Tay Tay and instead opted for an old favourite. Let Go by Frou Frou. Somehow, the lyrics and feel of the music felt more appropriate than the manufactured, yet no less enjoyable pop of ol’ Swifty.
“so let go
And jump in
Oh well whatcha waiting for
It’s all right
‘Cause there’s beauty in the breakdown”
– Frou Frou, Let Go
With a deep a breath I fell back onto my bed, eyes closed, arms outstretched. Forgetting that I’d eventually have to shower and change from my wet clothes.
Instead, I allowed myself a moments reprieve after what had been a long week.
It is then that my watch buzzed with a notification.
It was Thursday…
* If one were to look up Tay Tay on urban dictionary they would soon learn that I am in fact referring to the fandom’s name for the popular singer Taylor Swift. Like OMG, TayTay is totes amaze-balls.
If they were to continuing scrolling a little further down the page, they would also learn that TayTay can refer to “a little turd that is short and looks good enough to eat.” Upon reading this I am left wondering about the amount of carbs in a Tay Tay…
For those interested: