A picture is worth a thousand words, and movie footage … well, maybe more.
It’s a thrill to complete a major international race, even in the heart of the pack.
There’s just no experience quite like it – the patter of trainers on tarmac, the companionship of fellow-runners, the roars of the crowd, and the ghastly rasping sounds which form the soundtrack to my own near-terminal efforts.
So here it is – Roads in southern Spain, and en route to a 1:59:57 half marathon.
Spanish steps – La Rambla de Almería: the ascent for glory (advisory – this film features poor Spanish grammar, right from the start)
We were ready for our run around the banana plantation – laces tied, route mapped and dog ready. That’s when Adam told me his last marathon time was 3:15, over an hour faster than mine.
‘No problem,’ he said. ‘You set the pace. I’ll just hang on your right shoulder.’
I ran that first lap too fast. Then halfway around the second, I turned left instead of right.
‘This way !’ chided Adam mildly, racing down another, seemingly identical trail between the bananas.
And if that was at all remarkable, it was only because Adam is blind.
Seven human lifetimes ago, the mountain behind me was alive.
Smoke, fire and brimstone poured into the blue Atlantic sky, day and night.
The crews of three small sailing boats watched the terrifying spectacle from the safety of the next island, fearful of such a bad omen whilst their epic journey had hardly commenced. The captain of their little fleet had no choice then but to portray it calmly, or maybe not quite so calmly, as a certain sign of heavenly goodwill instead.
Two weeks later, in September 1492, the three tiny vessels left the safety of the Canary Islands, slipped their moorings in San Sebastián on La Gomera, and bravely sailed off the edge of the world. The first voyage of Christopher Columbus and the Santa Maria had begun.
‘I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhauser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.’
Blade Runner (dir. Ridley Scott), 1982
A long, perfect beach in southwestern Spain, August 2005. Five miles through another blue morning under flawless skies in Zahara de los Atunes. It’s an elemental sort of place – the summer ocean is murmuring in the distance through the breeze to my left, the waves sparkling on the bay beyond the sand dunes front of me.
“Madrid is killing me – but it’s a great way to die”.
If ever one phrase could sum up a city, then this is it. To be honest, it’s just how I’ve always experienced Madrid. Exhilaration, culture shock, and something of fear, all in one.
As we swoop down through a turbulent and thundery Madrid sky, the brown and dusty fields rising to meet us already tell their tale of a dry Spanish spring and the early summer heat. The weekend has just begun, and there’s no better way to leave long hours and weeks in the office behind us as we drive northwards from the city, through the busy Friday night traffic towards the looming grey shadow of the Sierra de Guadarrama.