On Saturday morning outside the free library in Long Eaton, Notts., I lay down and wept. More precisely I clasped the wall and tried not to throw up. It was a turning point in the morning's long run.
It began a couple of house earlier with the Seven AM Saturday Striders. The Striders do a twelve mile loop every Saturday morning at seven o'clock. They are an informal group attached to Long Eaton Running Club (see here) who like to take in the great views of Nottinghamshire at dawn, hills and mud and all. Sean and I had just done these twelve with Hornet (Ian Chant, of Berlin marathon fame); Hero (Jon Crannage, of Heroes of Switzerland fame; look back to the Cardiff half-/marathon, where he made his debut: I rather regret not having made more of it at the time); Squealer; Rookirunna; Rollerman; Dodgycalf. They're a cheerful bunch, given the time and the percentage gradients. I suppose that, unlike Sean and me, they had not drunk four bottles of wine (and we may have lost count) and watched five episodes of the West Wing the night before.
So at a leisurely pace, with plenty of banter (Hornet trying to persuade me to publish this in hard copy, or get sponsorship from Lucozade, for example; and the most appalling series of puns on "stride" and "striders" you can imagine) and bodily-function stops, we went from the Long Eaton sports centre through Strawberry Fields (just gorgeous as the sun is coming up), across the Erewash golf club, up to No Man's Lane (at this point the sky was purple) then a lung-bursting climb to Risley Lodge Farm. I think it was there that I performed the initiation rite of jumping over a horse fence. Which I managed. Despite the mud. And the fine Bordeaux. Then down from the ridge until we made our way back to the Erewash Canal, which we followed for a mile or so back in Long Eaton.
Then we waved breathless farewells to the Striders, and found ourselves at the crossroads. To the right was Sean's house. To the left was the Trent, and the path back to The University of Nottingham (About which D.H. Lawrence memorably wrote: "In Nottingham, that dismal town / where I went to school and college, / they've built a new university / for a new dispensation of knowledge"; note the pun on dispensation, as UoN was funded by Boot's the chemist). Sean had left his car there.
At the crossroads I was on my knees, trying really hard not to throw up after a mere twelve miles. It's all gone, you see, all that fitness has dissipated. Sean gave me half a cereal bar. The problem was that I'd persuaded him, when he'd been trying not to throw up ten minutes earlier, that it's really important to finish the run you'd planned, because if you don't you take a mental defeat. So we took the road less travelled, to the Trent and along its glorious path to the University, probably nineteen miles in all.
My thanks to the Striders, and to Sean as ever. Without them I wouldn't have made the distance, and would have felt really guilty when we opened that bottle of wine for lunch.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less travelled by
And that has made all the difference.