On the very first morning of the summer school, Corinne was complaining of stiffness. She’d taken part in the Vitality British 10K run in London the day before and in doing so helped to raise over £2000 for charity. My cousin had also entered the race and it was also one that he went on to win. I told Corinne about it and she was suitably impressed, but I don’t think it’s something I told you.
Skip forwards a week and a half to Dumfries House. I discover that you’re a regular runner. Some mornings I saw you as you set out on your morning jog, other mornings I saw you when you get back. I’m not a 100-mile a week man like my cousin, but I do run. I like running. I like the intensity of it. I like it for the freedom it affords and for its accessibility. I like the freedom of knowing that I can go anywhere I like and I can go immediately. It doesn’t require a membership or expensive equipment. I don’t necessarily need to travel anywhere to do it or have to rely on anyone when I get there. It’s dead cheap and no one can let you down.
You told me about your achievements as a high school and college rower and how you used to train for four hours a day as you competed at national level. It’s no wonder you like to run. You know the freedom of being out on the water and you sought a similar kind of freedom here.
My mind now shifts to films with running scenes: Shame, Juno, Forrest Gump, any Rocky film. Al Pacino does a lot of running in his films. Carlito’s Way in particular. He has a wonderfully cinematic run, but he never runs for sport. At least not when he’s acting. He’s either chasing or being chased.
Towards the end of the third week of the summer school, I told you why I liked running. I said I liked how it speeds up the mind and allows me to have two or three days’ worth of thoughts within the space of 30 to 45 minutes. So if I go out for a run on a Thursday morning, I will have so many thoughts and ideas during that period that it will feel like Saturday afternoon by the time I get back. But it’ll still be Thursday morning and I’ll still have that time available to do whatever I have to. Things tend to make more sense when you run. The same can be said for walking. It’s a way of letting your legs do the thinking and a way of clearing your head. It’s an act of meditation, a way to relax.
On your last morning run at Dumfries House, you came back triumphant and overwhelmed with joy. After almost two weeks of effort and many unsuccessful attempts to achieve the seemingly impossible, you did it. All your hard work had paid off. For you, running may well be about the things I described. You may do it for freedom or relaxation, a way of thinking more or thinking less, or a way of clearing your head. But if any of these are your reasons for running, they were all secondary reasons while you were running around the country lanes of the estate. All that really mattered is that you had accomplished your primary objective. And you had done it. You had finally managed to stroke a cow.