04 August 2007

Open letter to Alex

Dear Alex

Excuse me posting this on my blog, but it seemed like a good way to keep
in touch with you and to post something at the same time.

Last Sunday, Boston and I headed out for a morning run taking a route
that reminded me intantly, and more powerfully than any other regular
run I do, of numerous runs with you. Where the track turns right
towards Richardsons, we took the path through the waist-high crop that
climbs to a stile from which you follow the edges of the fields until
you reach a private road, the one that leads to Mad Henry's property
(I've only learnt recently that this is what the landowning community
calls him: you'll understand that I'm going to be coy about precisely
where this is, lest someone recognise him).

My abiding memory of running this route with you involves several pounds
of mud adhering to my feet, but last Sunday it was dry and firm
underfoot, as I'm sure it was really on many occasions when we ran it
together. It wasn't at our regular time of day, first thing in the
morning, still dark except in the summer: I'd even had a bowl of
porridge and taken a trip into Didcot before setting out for a late
morning run.
In the days when we ran every weekend, Boston was little more than a
puppy. Mentally, being a springer, he still is, but he's not the
long-distance runner he was. I've not been giving him the exercise he
used to have in this past year, so he's not as fit as he was, and he is
a little on the portly side, but apart from the stamina he might regain
and the weight he could lose I have to respect his increasingly grizzled
appearance. (He doesn't reciprocate, but I don't ask him to.) And the
countryside through which we run contains so many distractions -
olfactory ones only, in his case: he stops to sniff every few yards, but
a rat was able to saunter across the path in front of him without
attracting his attention.

It's probably a couple of years since I ran this way, and I hesistated
for a moment over which gate to take. In one field, where we used to
run straight along the headland, the farmer has sown right up to the
hedge and left a path runing diagonally through the crop, forcing me to
do two sides of a triangle, but on such a beautiful running morning, who
cares?

Well, it turns out, Boston does, and eventually so do I. We joined the
grass track that heads towards the racing yard and the Downs, becoming a
concrete road (there were usually pigs in the field on the right, and I
alsways worried about how Boston might get on with them, but now it's
under oil seed rape) and climbing to the old railway bridge (the
railway, of course, being a victim of Dr Beeching). By the time we
reached that point, it was clear that a left turn towards the old
Reading University field station (where once I encountered an old man
who, cycling home from the Site to Pangbourne, had seen fit to stop for
a little nude sunbathing and was hastily replacing some of his clothing
as I approached) would be more than either of us could cope with. So we
took a more direct route home, which you and I wouldn't have done when
we used to run this.

Tomorrow I can try it all again - and I hope both of us are ready to run
a little further.

Regards

Peter

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