Scenes from the Inverness Half Marathon, March 2018

The Build Up
pipes skirl prematurely triumphant
flags crack in the morning breeze
a drumroll march to the starting line


The Starting Line
The marching band refused to yield
to the endless queues for the portaloos
Spare a thought for those caught short
who had to run in wet training shoes


Mid Race
Drumbeats on the downhill stretch
Children beating pans
Prosecco passed from hand to hand
Parties in the gardens


In The Traffic Jam
He had the face of an eighty year old, eighty years lived thin yet heavily. He leaned back in the driver’s seat as Jagger howled his frustration. A curl of smoke wisped out of the open window. He looked at the runners and gently, perhaps regretfully, shook his head.


Finished, Done For
The wind has risen. It’s sharper now and our sweat is chilling our skin. We have cried without wanting to, the effort was so great and the relief, but walking away, back along the course, we smile and cheer and clap those still running. They are the bravest.

Jogging on Halloween

It hit him on the shoulder like a hammer hurled from hell. His legs were still running as fast as they could so the blow knocked him off balance and he stumbled down the grassy slope and into the icy water of the lake. The mud grasped his ankles like bony hands and pulled. He struggled briefly and tried to scream but the mud and the water were in his mouth. A few frantic bubbles then nothing. Minutes later the nightbirds were gliding gracefully across the lapping water.

He had often joked about being the only jogger not being chased around the park. He went at his own speed but everyone else, the serious ones, the ones who sped past him up the hill, they were being chased by something large and terrifying and invisible. That was why they went so fast, they did not dare slow down. Then, as he ran and the nights grew longer, grew towards his running time, he thought more about the story and as people passed he squinted after them, trying to make out their demons.

Then one evening, just for a flash, he saw one. As the path came out from the trees, the man in shorts ran past him, face contorted, and John caught a glimpse of the animal chasing him. Wolf-like, foam dripping from its jaws, eyes coal red in the dark, it ran snapping at his heels, never quite touching but close enough that he could feel its cold breath on his legs.

And then it was gone. John shook his head. He was sure he had seen it but it was gone. He walked the rest of the way home.

The next few times he went for a run he looked carefully as people passed him. Nothing was chasing them that he could see but still they ran faster. He felt odd, uneasy, when he ran now.

He thought twice about running on Halloween but then put on his kit. It was only just dark and there would be people about, trick or treating. His front door creaked as he closed it and his footsteps seemed to echo on the stairs. As he had imagined, clouds scudded across a deep black sky.

He jogged slowly down the road. There was nobody about. Strange. The castle on the hill hung in its own red light. He crossed the road and squeezed through the gap in the hedge into the park. The trees whispered.

He turned down the hill under the trees. It was darker today and the knobbly roots were hidden. He tried to slow down, tripped and fell. As he pushed himself up onto his knees something touched his hair. Heart pounding he jumped to his feet and looked around and there it was. He had never seen it before but he knew what it was, his blood felt what it was and froze. Down the hill again he half staggered half ran then at the bottom, lungs bursting, he ran and ran and ran until he could not run any more but run he did. He looked around. It hit him on the shoulder like a hammer hurled from hell.

Those times when you look back and wonder what you were thinking

Those times when you look back and wonder what you were thinking. Running through the scrub, I saw a snake coiled on the path ahead of me and thought my reflexes would be quicker. It moved a little as I got nearer, shimmering mirror silver on black. I thought I could just jump over it and, in my mind, I think I saw it flattening itself against the dirt, against the dried red mud, holding itself down to avoid me. At the same time my mind’s eye saw it reaching out to strike me in slow motion and saw me twist and lift my leg so that it missed. Two views already and both successful.

Those times when you look back and wonder what you were thinking. I’m not sure where I was when my body or my deepest brain screamed to stop. Perhaps I was already in the air, perhaps a stride short. My body twisted and lifted both legs and both arms and twisted on itself and through the screaming felt the bite.

Those times when you look back and wonder what you were thinking.

Running and driving

Things I saw each day, running from Castro to Marittima (and back)

Day 1: Dog, snake, dog cat dog

Day 2: Dog, dog, snake dog dog

Day 3: Sheep, sheep, sheep, sheepdog

Day 4: The car that nearly hit me

Day 5: Flies, more flies, dead badger

Day 6: Dog, dog, flies, dead badger still there, flies, sheep, sheepdog in the distance

Day 7: The car

Things I saw each day, driving to Marittima

Day 1: Tractor turning into olive grove

Day 2: Man on a moped with an umbrella

Day 3: Couple of vans parked by the convent

Day 4: Runners I only saw at the last minute

Day 5: I stayed at home

Day 6: I went the other way

Day 7: I didn’t see the runners