This winter feels like late spring, the fields are green already, birds are getting comfortable, it is warm in the sun, warm enough for shorts. I have no clear plan for the run, but settle into the groove of the Ashwell and Morden circuit.
I carry three bits of dried fruit, papaya, melon and orange. The dried fruit is so sweet it’s difficult to believe no sugar has been added. How does the process work? They are a remembrance of fresh fruit past and of a store front in Munich that I remember, dried fruit laid out like a colours on a palette.
The papaya first after running out of steam relatively quickly. The effect is immediate, it lights up the system, restores bounce. Is the effect psychological? How can a dried papaya’s energy be released into legs in seconds?
Downhill to the A-Road, car wheels eating up the road, and they all seem to be speeding. The melon is next at the bridge over the tracks by AWM. The run is further than intended, Edith Piaf’s voice surfaces, no I don’t regret not taking my train ticket, the temptation to ride back would have been too great.
I’ve gotten used to taking breaks now, and I’m tempted to take more at shorter intervals, but fruit and water are running out and every break from now on will be a relative disappointment to the first.
From a distance the Whiting plant might be a castle, or a fortress. There’s a well-written description of the place. The quarry has been in operation since 1820. The raw material is a “very pure and white form of Calcium Carbonate – a sedimentary rock formed from the compressed skeletons of millions of prehistoric animals and sea creatures.” Omya AG turns the powdered skeletons into food grade calcium carbonates.
After the factory comes the little white house, like a landlocked version of Girtin’s picture, standing in front of the turn-off onto Icknield way. The path is busy with batallions of mud-bikes splashing merrily through muddy puddles at speed, the riders stand up on their peddles sometimes, horseman-like, before accelerating. A girl rides a horse slowly in a field by the side of the way, listening to pop-music and an older rider slows from a canter to a trot as she passes and wishes me a good morning then corrects herself to good afternoon, but too late for me to correct my automatic symmetrical response. The winter is warm, but the days are short.
I turn off earlier from the Icknield way following another runner after taking the last sip of water. The route passes by sheep. I wonder if they are the same sheep that graze on Therfield Heath at other times of the year. There’s a yellow telephone by the gate that leads on to a crossing over the railway tracks. If you’re in the business of moving animals then you must use this telephone to inform the signaller before taking them over the tracks. I emerge at the McDonalds, where many animals end up, finally realising the extent of my detour. I trot on past the Redrow housing development.
A run is a simple occupation, a bit like spending time on an amusement ride, but with more tension between automation and volition. One foot in front of the other, but at what speed, walk, trot, canter? A quick downhill gallop? Breaks at regular intervals, but when exactly and which piece of dried fruit first? With a steady, low heart rate at a low trot, the experience is also a bit like a dream in shallow sleep.