I am writing this in that time of post-run relaxation, when the mind is empty. Nothing is in focus and everything feels pleasantly hazy. There is nothing in particular that I want to say – no point to make. All I have are the impressions from the run idly playing in my mind.
First there was the weather, absolutely perfect, a bit overcast so that it was not too hot but still pleasant and summery. This makes such a huge difference. Last week it was hot and I really felt it and slowed down. Today everything was easier.
Then there were all the people strolling about, at ease and socialising. The general sense of recreation is one of the reasons I like running by the canal. At Berkhamsted there are three pubs in quick succession. People are on the benches looking at the water, sipping their beer. The beer looks tempting but I am running and cannot be distracted (there’s focus for you). I can only let my mind wander and think of the pub as a social institution, think of the longboats and their gentle progress between pubs and thinking that I must try that for a holiday sometime.
Although I like people around too many causes problems. Sometimes I think there is a growing lack of spatial awareness – everyone so much in their own world that they are unaware of how they affect others around them. A small example: a mother has parked her pushchair on the path, facing the water so that the child can throw bread for the ducks. That is great and it is a good thing to do. However she parked it right in front of a bench, thereby making a narrow an awkward gap to negotiate and I had to slow right down – a couple of yards further on there would have been no problem as I could easily have detoured on the grass.
Later on I ran up behind a group of three middle-aged people, side by side, taking all the available space. The man was aware of my coming and made a bit of space for me to run through. However the two women were completely unaware until I was right by them. One of them made a little panicky jump and was all of a flutter. She then made some remark about me needing a bell. This amused me – firstly the thought that my pace was anywhere near the speed of a bicycle was gross flattery. Secondly for all my puffing and pounding I had somehow approached unnoticed – I must have been running more gracefully than I thought (if only!).
With some people greetings are exchanged because we are very briefly sharing the same space and it is sociable but others want to make no contact. There was one woman who moved out the way excessively when I passed. This happened fairly near my turn around point and so I passed her again but this time face-to-face. She turned away to look at the hedgerow and avoid any chance of eye contact. I wondered about the story behind such nervousness, such closed-offness.
Contrasting with that isolation was the community of the river. A rather fine barge, originally from the port of Rotterdam (I know this because it was embossed on the hull) was moored whilst the owner was doing some work on the cabin. Other boat owners wandered over and started conversations about boats, comparing activity, that sort of thing. As I went past I heard that Rotterdam owner used to be an engineer. That’s all i heard but it's enough to get you thinking about interests aptitudes and life choice.
No thought was held for any great length of time. They flitted and passed, easily, without consequence - a bit like the running itself. It was just one of those days where things felt relaxed.