Writing, playing guitar and running. These have been the cornerstones of my work/play life (the two go together) during this second lockdown period. I have, once again, found the desire to get up early and run before sunrise. I usually do this when in France, simply because the temperature soon rises to a degree which makes running uncomfortable in the Dordogne. In Scotland though, this is rarely an issue. Winter running can, in fact be downright hazardous, with slippery surfaces, driving sleet and poor visibility.
Last Sunday morning I set off on a long, slow run. I wanted to cover about 35km (22 miles) because in May, My son Matthew and I are (hopefully) running the Edinburgh marathon and are gunning for a high-kudos time of sub 3 hours 30 minutes. A tried and tested training technique is to do long runs at a pace well below your target pace. This develops the necessary aerobic and muscle base required. The problem is that many runners, me included, have an addiction to credible Strava times. We all like to show off a zippy pace to our friends, and win those little ‘thumbs up’ icons in our activity feeds.
To take this out of the equation, I ran off-road making a fast time impossible. I went up farm tracks, along animal trails, through woodland, at times not knowing where on earth I was, with a constant gnawing concern that I may have been trespassing. I saw scampering red squirrels, pheasants,, which hide in bushes and then fly out in front of you squawking madly as you approach, the white flashes of the rear ends of deer and, in a somewhat more surreal fashion, a more mature, rather small gentleman, running a good pace towards me on a minor road.
Now, you may well be asking what on earth is notable about the last of these; I mean, do the vertically-challenged, elderly population not have the right to run? He was demonstrating fine technique, and looked very comfortable in his endeavours. What made him stand out from the normal Sunday morning wanabee veteran Olympian was his attire: he was sporting a full formal suit, collared shirt, silk tie (tastefully pinned down) long overcoat and black dress shoes. As he approached me, we caught one another’s eyes and did a small ‘lifting of the right hand’ gesture of acknowledgement.
“Morning!”, I called between gulps of air, trying to give the impression that I was not knackered.
“Good morning to you!”, replied my co-runner, maintaining fine form and showing no apparent signs of fatigue.
So we crossed paths and continued on our separate ways.
It is actually the third time I have seen the suited runner man in recent months. He has come to fascinate me as much as the wildlife and the jaw-dropping Perthshire terrain. As I always see him on Sunday mornings, I wonder whether his run is a spiritual endeavour. Maybe he is on his way to lead a church service (on Zoom I presume)? My family think he may be a ghost, and have suggested I try to run straight through him next time to test the theory. I am concerned at the possible consequences though, should he be made of solid flesh and bone, like the rest of us mortal souls.
I think that if I see him again, I’ll take a photo when his back is turned. This strikes me as discourteous, downright creepy in fact, but I suspect that some individuals with whom I have shared this tale believe me to be suffering lockdown lunacy. I need evidence to back up my claims. In the meantime, here are some images of the Perthshire landscapes. Look carefully and you’ll spot deer, birds, fauna and, just maybe, a gentleman in a suit heading towards a Boston qualifying time.
Dan is a professional guitarist, composer, arranger, teacher, author, writer and runner (well, the last of these is hardly professional, but you get the idea). He lives between Scotland and France (at least he did before Brexit. Still have to work that one out…) His book Extracting Goats From Jean-Claude’s Kitchen is fast becoming a classic amongst the Franco-Scottish-Guitar-Playing-Runner-community. Really.