This week’s long run was really long – a full 18.5 miles, on a seriously grey-looking Sunday lunchtime. It was threatening to rain, the air felt heavy and damp. The sky was the more or less the same colour as the pavement which I gave a good kicking for a full 2 hours and 40 minutes. Before I set off, I knew it was going to be the furthest I’d ever run, but after the last few week’s successful long runs, I wasn’t dreading it.
Despite not dreading it, I still wasn’t looking forward to it. The dense grey sky and miserable palette of the normally-pretty country roads I run on had got the better of me. Plus, it was mother’s day, and all I wanted to do was to go and sit in a cosy pub, and enjoy a beer and some chips with my mum.
Of course (or there wouldn’t be a blog post) I made it out the door, in my normal running attire of fleecy grey and black compression things, plus a pair of green and grey Nike Pegasus trainers.
(As a brief aside, I’ve been running mostly in my Nike Free 5.0‘s and I’m not completely certain but I feel like I bruised my foot after 15 miles on the pavement in those bad boys one Sunday – I’ve switched to the Pegasus for anything over 5 miles to see if it makes a difference. As yet, I haven’t noticed, but I’m not in pain, so that’s got to be good news.)
So, anyway, there I was, trudging – actually, not trudging, I had a fair pace on if we’re being honest, but it felt like trudging – through the first 10 miles. I’d passed the colleges – shrouded in unexciting grey fog, run through the normally beautiful Granchester meadows, which were transformed into a Graham Swift-esque mire of pale grey, and even – in my peak moment of grey – crossed the gridlocked M11 on a motorway bridge. It wasn’t thrilling. I ran up two of Cambridgeshire’s very few hills, and there was no view. On the way down the hill, I rang my mum.
‘About 15 minutes!’ I yelled into the wind.
‘When?!’ She screamed into my ear through my headphones. (What is it about parents and telephone calls? If you whisper, they’re inaudible. If you shout, you’re deafened by the reply.)
Picking up the microphone on my headphones and cupping it with both hands, I tried again:
‘I’ll. Be. There. In. 15. Minutes.’
‘Okay! 15 minutes everyone!’ She shouted, and hung up.
About 15 minutes later, at mile 12, I hurtled into my parents driveway, spurred on by the promise of seeing familiar faces.
My mum swung the door open (‘Happy Mother’s Day!’ I panted) and snatched my water bottle, running off to fill it up. My dad threw a pair of headphones at me (‘For your sister’), as my mum re-holstered my water bottle. All in the space of about thirty seconds.
Then, out of nowhere, bouncing off the stairs and out the front door, she arrived. A blur of hot pink, neon orange and vibrant yellow, with her blonde hair swinging in a plait starting on the crown of her head, her long legs clad in Victoria’s Secret PINK leggings and wearing the most obscene trainers ever to have graced the shelves of Nike’s flagship store (hint: they’re pink), my sister bounded out to join me.
‘I’m coming with you! Six miles to go, right?’
She’s taller than me, by about three inches, and all of that extra height is in her legs. She takes long strides, and – if it weren’t for her tendency to flush pillar-box red within seconds of starting any kind of excercise – you’d never know she was exerting any effort. Fresh from a morning of lying on the sofa watching Made in Chelsea (I don’t know, I’m just guessing) she was full of energy, effervescing in her bright colours and bouncing on her longer-than-mine legs.
I was tired. And felt grey.
It didn’t matter. I could have run two grey miles, or 12 grey miles, or 26.2 grey miles. The sight of my excitable, technicoloured, bouncing baby sister was all the energy I needed. We set off together, her chatting away about the morning she’d spent with my mum and dad, me trying to chime in despite feeling uncharacteristically out of breath. As I caught my breath we had found our normal rhythm, taking it in turns to entertain one another with stories, one talking while the other breathes, then switching over. She had coldly assessed the outfits of some other runners – one of her favourite pastimes, and always guaranteed to make me laugh. Before I knew it, we were back in the centre of town and it had very little to do with me. Her fresh legs, her new energy had carried me the whole way.
‘Get your head up Al, there are loads of people – you’ve got to look good!’ she urged me as we hammered into the home straight along the cobblestones outside Kings College.
‘Are we there yet?’ she yelled, as we picked up pace. I was waiting for the distance cue on my headphones to tell us we’d reached the 18 mile marker.
‘Coming through!’ she barked at a group of tourists, ’18 miles! We don’t need to run around you as well!’
For the last three or four minutes of that long run she suddenly transformed, becoming my own personal pacer, course organiser and crowd. She whooped and cheered when I heard the 18 mile distance cue, and then forced me to sprint finish, all the way to my front door.
She wears pink, and I wear black. She’s tall and blonde, and I’m neither of those things. She’s an architect and I’m a writer. But we went to a yoga class later that weekend, and the teacher took me aside afterwards.
‘Who was that, your friend?’ he asked.
‘No, my sister’ I told him
‘I knew it!’ he replied, ‘You have the same energy.’