Oh my love
It’s a long way we’ve -come
From the freckled hills
To the steel and glass canyons
U2 – November 2002
My watch says almost midday, and still I’m waiting for the sun to come up. I’ve been sitting in my hotel room for a couple of hours already, wide awake and yet bleary-eyed with jet-lag, but a glance out of the window and across the freeway shows a resolutely dark sky over the plains beyond The Loop.
Oh well. There’s no point in waiting any longer. I chuck on a T-shirt and shorts, lace up my shoes, trot out through the lobby and hit the sidewalk running.
It was a less of a bang, and more of a low thud, which woke me on Sunday morning just after 6 am.
Something had fallen off a shelf downstairs somewhere, I thought, and I went back to sleep.
I’d never really believed those stories about the Krakatoa explosion being heard in India, 5,000 km away, or of Londoners being able to hear the First World War guns in France, but now I do.
Because that sound which woke me early on Sunday wasn’t generated in the house at all, but by an exploding oil storage facility on the other side of London, over 100 km away. Remarkable.
What a way to spend an early winter’s morning. Late November sunshine streaming unbroken from a frostily huge and cloudless sky. Cool breeze hardly leaving a ripple on a dark blue sea. The gentlest ambling stroll along a quiet promenade, gazing up at the Regency splendour of Brighton seafront.
The road from Marrakech.
Traversing a flat and featureless plain stretching southeast from the city. Empty. Just bare soil, patchy scrub, a village or two, and a few goats.
And always ahead is the grey outline of the mountains, rising slowly in front of us. They beckon silently with an understated call, and it’s only half an hour from the city that the scale of their promise is revealed.
For the Atlas Mountains are no mid-continental ripple – that much is clear as soon as the blue haze crystallises above the foothills to uncover the height of the snow-capped range behind.
The late October evening is already falling as I start my run. It’s only two weeks since my last marathon, and it’s not certain that I should be out at all, but the warm weather is just too insistent to ignore.
The streets are already busy here, with people hungrily rushing home to eat. I dodge the scurrying pedestrians waiting at the lights, and scamper across the road through a gap in the traffic.
It’s easy running, past the tower and out through the city walls, into the open countryside beyond. The sky’s been clear and blue all day, but now has turned opaque, a smoky grey canopy to drape the hills to the west of town.
Don’t know why you’re so blue
The sun’s gonna shine on everything you do.
Ocean Drive – The Lighthouse Family 1996
The best of times, the worst of times. Well, it was neither of those. My 4:15 today places 4th in my all time top 6 (er, the only 6) marathon performances.
It takes half a million steps to train for a marathon. Around 500 miles, more or less.
And if I haven’t managed quite that distance this time, in those 18 weeks, it’s because for quite a few of those, I didn’t know that I was training for a marathon. Even now, I’m not certain that I was.
It was a slow and injury-bound winter which forced me to jump on my bike last Spring. Hills, more hills and harder hills fell behind my forks in place of long runs beneath my feet. Frustrating in a way, and yet somehow refreshing, too.