mano et mano

  • Wednesday, October 31, 2012
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Kingsdown, Kent.
I pull on my old New Balance top with the frayed cuffs, swimming trunks and my Five Fingers. On my head is an old beanie with a head cam attached. I navigate the drop from the holiday camp to the beach and run, scrunching across the shingle beach towards the cliff.
Earlier I had stopped a local runner, as lean as whipcord and asked him for his advice on a route.
“I would run along the cliff top” he told me, “It's a great run and you can run right through to Dover if you wish” I don't answer, just stare at him meaningfully to imply that I do those distances as a warm up. I make sure that he gets a good look at my club jacket, mano et mano. I too am a serious runner is my unspoken message, We are hairy chested, testosterone fuelled machines.
I climb the flight of steps at the base of the cliffs and stop for a moment at the top to enjoy the view. I also make sure I'm not going to plunge to my death. Which is important.
I quickly realise that this is true English heritage trail running, not the iconic Seven Sisters as I have promised myself or Beachy head but something as good. I feel as if I am running along the edge of the world on a muddy, purpling path with the ghosts of history alongside. I look down on the backs of birds and sneer at the tiny fishing boats far below. On my right are rolling green fields and in the far distance I see the dirty smudge of the French coastline. I run happily along for near on eight miles, past the memorial to the Dover patrol and return to my holiday base where I jump straight into the indoor pool.

I contort out of my tracksuit bottoms

  • Monday, October 22, 2012
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I've had more glamorous runs than this. I now have the pleasure of a free hour every Wednesday evening to spend exploring the wonders of Orpington as I please. I contort out of my tracksuit bottoms in the car knowing that the sight of a middle aged man wrestling down his trousers, in a car, in public is not a good look. I wait  for cries of alarm but none come, the commuter stream continues past without pause. For my initial foray I choose a conservative approach, straight, left, straight, left, straight, left. More or less, there are a few wiggles and a dogleg thrown in. This is mostly due to the irresistible urge to run down narrow footpaths to see where they go. And of course I have to detour into a large supermarket for a wee. Towards the end of my five miles I run under this underpass with it's classical crumbling brickwork and leaky drainage pipes. It leads me directly to the train station where I tangle with the commuters, extract myself and run on to my car. As a run I am underwhelmed and under worked. I need to get more organised and more adventurous.