An FT article about running—part of a series called “Rise of the Runners”—activates a latent will to run longer distances. An idea forms: could I run the morning commute from Royston to King’s Cross? Along quiet roads, the distance is about seventy kilometers. In building up to it I could explore the route around the line, run between stations.
Glossy videos from an earphone manufacturer capture aspects of the attraction to running.
The cost of the Annual Gold Card for a year of train travel between Royston and London was £4936. It will allow me to shuttle between new running tracks.
Today marks the start of the Gold Card Running project: Runs between stations on the Royston to London line(s).
On Saturday morning I had managed only 3km. A perfunctory restart. Travel and then a cough sapped momentum. A reduction in fitness feels like a gradual loosening of the body. The mind too is less sharp. Long-distance running has appeal: a slice of freedom carved out from the normal flow of events. Murakami wrote about the link between running and writing. Running and writing: an ideal life, perhaps. Movement and time, pulse and breath.
The secrect of time lies in this slippage that we feel on our pulse, viscerally, in the enigma of memory, in anxiety about the future. This is what it means to think about time. What exactly is this flowing?
The train from Royston to Ashwell and Morden at 7:15. A man with unkempt hair and a rugged bike reads from a ragged paperback, the cover in tatters. It’s a four-minute journey through fields. A field with wheat or another crop I can’t name is spotted with poppies. The train slows, doors open.
Across the platform bridge, left, to the motorway. There is no real pavement by the side of the A road, but the fringe is wide enough. Estates line the space between the motorway and the field. Across the first dual-carriageway then across the other. The route back to Therfield Heath is a half-circle. I can’t decide on my form. Should I be landing on the mid-foot or further forward? What does good dorsiflexion feel like? The default is to strike closer to the heel. Concentrate on the motion against the road and the legs being pulled back up by elastic. I read somewhere that this is the correct mental image. I’m not used to long straight stretches of even road. A rhythm begins to settle. Two strides per breath, shoulders begin to relax into a familiar feeling of slight asymmetry. A slow pace at 6 min/km. A dip in the road, shade, a breeze, accelerate, then a comfortable incline. Startled pigeons. I notice friction against the inside of my right shoe when I focus on hitting the ground toe first so it’s more comfortable to revert to move the contact back. I need new shoes. The ones I’m wearing are four or five years old. Past Therfield and back down toward the Heath at under 5 min/km. Then into the wooded border between the golf-course and the fields. Heavy legs, elevated pulse. Dogs walk their owners. Impatience sets in with the tiredness and then it’s over.