IT IS wet and windy, we are soaked and muddied. My two friends are waiting for me up ahead. They’ve been waiting quite often on the trot round. I did warn them about inviting Puffer Cole along for the run.
We are somewhere in the Studley Royal Estate and a final diversion has been suggested, just as the tearooms were beginning to form in my mind, a lovely mirage of cosiness and cake.
My friends are fitter than me and I have been at the back all the way round. As they chat at the gate, waiting to for me to catch my breath, one friend says to the other that he will have to work when he gets home, putting in a spot of Sunday afternoon toil.
‘So this is the fun part of the day?’ I say. ‘Yes, it is,’ he says, laughing. ‘It really is.’
The wind drops as we set off on the diversion, running along the seven bridges in the valley, although we only find five or maybe six. At the gate we turn round and head back towards the car. One friend puts on a final spurt and disappears into the blowing sheets of rain. The other waits on the bridge by the lake, then we run the last short stretch together.
This run has been a recce for the Jolly Holly Jog, an annual post-Christmas run organised by Ripon Runners. I applied too late to get in but was invited along for this try-out anyway.
Normally I run once or twice a week in York, mostly flat, famously flat, apart from the hill towards home, quite a rise in a city that doesn’t do much in the way of undulating.
So running around muddy hills is not my usual thing. Back at the car, one of us changes beneath the raised boot of his vehicle, while two of us head to the loos to peel off layers of mud-splattered clothing. My running shoes seem now to be made of mud, with worms for laces. Every layer is wet or muddy or both.
From the next cubicle my friend says that he loves the muddy runs because it reminds him of being a child, getting as dirty as you like. My mother told me once recently that I didn’t like getting dirty as a child. I’m not that keen now, although there is something invigorating about becoming so wet and muddy that you no longer care.
Changed, dry and halfway decent, we head to the tearooms next to the small lake. Tea with scones and cream for my friends, a chocolate brownie and a cappuccino for me. Outside the wind is throwing fistfuls of rain at the windows.
We chat about running, life, politics – all the usual stuff. In the car on the way back the gale finds its lungs and blows nastily. Back home I go upstairs for clean clothes and the attic bedroom seems to be setting off on the high seas. It wouldn’t be surprising to see a mast out of the windows – but no, just the trees, straining and flexing in the wind.
It was good to run with friends instead of pounding along by myself – good and sociable. And since I became a man who sits inside too often, tapping away at this sometimes lonely laptop, the company was warm and welcome. Even if the weather wasn’t.
I wonder about telling my friends this, about the importance of friendship, but being a man I don’t get round to saying anything. On the way back one of them says I should write a blog about the run. So I do and here it is.
And thanks to Matt and Erich for the slip-sliding run in the wind and the rain, for giving me a soaking, for the company.
Sometimes a man has to come down from his ledge and go out for miserable run that turns out to be surprisingly uplifting.