Monday, March 31, 2014

Smoking Runner

I am walking along, determined to be a better person than I am when I meet a smoking runner coming towards me.

She has just completed a 5 kilometre course with others wearing the same pink shirts that proclaim they are all individually members of a group dedicated to some common cause.

Either the word women, or, ladies is printed among the other words on the shirts; but I am too polite to stare to see which, for I may be perceived as a predatory male walker.

I smile at the sky above their collective heads, instead.

There is a 10 kilometre course up ahead to complete for those who did not want to go home.

But since that is the same course run twice it hardly seems to count as a longer distance.

More of an instant action replay of the previous distance covered, I feel.

The smoker carries a plastic two-litre bottle of Coca-Cola from which she swigs in between puffs of the fag. I can't help noticing she is a little overweight for a runner, but resolve not to stare.

She is walking towards me and I step aside, breaking my own training pace.

She takes this as her right for she is a veteran now, having chased the others around five kilometres of tarmac, for a while.

They sweep past me with the determined step of the righteous achiever.

The solitary smoker is on the outskirts of the group; a weak member to be left behind by the fitter members of the pinkshirts, when her time comes.

She does not know this as they pass me by, unnoticed.

I stopped smoking twenty years ago; but am overwhelmed with desire when her trailing smoke reaches my nostrils.

Jezebel I think, unfairly, as I resume my own pace.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Getting dangerous in a hoodie

Buying and wearing a hoodie should not be taken as an act of aggression.

I walk now with more determination than a gardener seeking a site for a new rose bed; so, I buy some track suit trousers to allow for faster movement without chafing my legs to death.

While in the giant shed of a retail outlet I purchase a grey top with a zip front and a hood atop the whole thing. This is known as a hoodie, much loved by the criminal with a bad hairdo.

I buy it for the weather, not as a criminal disguise.
However, I cannot fight perception and find it more practical to wear this top with the hood down, a contradiction in design if ever there was one.

Solo walking takes application to the matter in hand, so when I first step out in the hoodie I seek a walker in the distance to pace.

I see a young woman in street clothes who is, I begin to believe, related to Superwoman. She walks with a measured gait that seems to set the universe spinning beneath her feet. She moves across distance at a pace a winged steed would find emotionally satisfying.

I lock in to her moving form with determination and she drags me along with her. It is a while before I realise she is fleeing from me.

For, I am wearing the hoodie with the top up against a vicious breeze that seeks to separate my ears from my body.

If I call out to say she is safe; her apprehension will be confirmed and she will phone the police to arrest me. For wearing a hoodie.

I take a less travelled path at the next junction. I put my hood up. For hoodie walking can be dangerous.

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Monday, March 17, 2014

If the hat fits wear it

Walking in the rain will make your head wet.

I walk by the bank of the Liffey near where I live. Rain does not respect our image of our wonderful selves. It comes down in sheets upon my unprotected head and on the land and trees and greenery all about me.

Come summer, this will be a verdant place suitable for tourists, and the like, to have their photos taken by the white water weir.

For now, my mind seeks shelter inside my skull from the hammering of raindrops intent on piercing my being.

When a voice hails me I think it is the Weather Gods mocking me.
It is John the Hatman.

He becomes that when he produces a white plastic bag, with handles, from his pocket and waves it at me.

He is walking a dog on a leash, the bag has come from his pocket, he wears a multicoloured peaked cap himself. The plastic bag is for my head; To keep me dry, he says.

I ask his name.

I pull the hat down over my soaked hair.  It fits. I bless John and all his descendants and thank his ancestors for the fine breeding they have achieved in this man, whom I have never met before.

Later, I come to terms with the awareness that I am waking beneath a bag originally intended to collect John's dog's waste as he perambulated along. I know though, for I have judged John in my mind, that the bag was unused when it was presented to me by a kind man.

I wear it with determination even when the rain stops and the sun shines on my headgear with malevolence.

I pass an Angus steer in a field and say nothing, nor does he.

You either understand these things.

Or not.

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Monday, March 10, 2014

Nice shoes

I decide I will take this walking a little more seriously.

People are looking at me as I walk along with intent and a faraway look in my eyes. I discard the heavy hiking boots and purchase some runners for my feet. And since I don't feel easy with the concept of runners I opt to call them trainers.

That name suggests there is an alternative for me somewhere down the road. A short cut I may explore in lieu of pounding the main drag with serious people who move with their heads down.

In winter, some buy little lights for their heads so they can run in darkness, in conflict with nature which dims natural light so we may remain indoors and vegetate, while watching outdoor videos.

However, many winter moons have passed since it was easy to walk into a shop to buy a pair of anything for your feet.

Trainers there are in dozens by price, maker, colour and many more definitions that are hard to follow unless you are indoctrinated by the manufactures' marketing people.

I even have special insoles moulded to suit my feet which, I am assured, have developed lazy arch muscles because of a decades-long pause in anything approaching a serious work-out.

They turn out to be so comfortable that I walk on air, a giddy sensation, not unknown to liberated men escaping the shackles of domesticity.

The assistant says she will email me the readings of my feet for my own records; handy to have if I ever forgot what my feet look like and have to search for them.

But she never does, even though she is very careful of the spelling of my address.

I may just walk back there in my trainers to see what happened to my missing feet.

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Monday, March 3, 2014

Just get to the corner

I decide I will enter the Dublin City Marathon.
As a walker.
Running has a sense of urgency about it that eludes me.

Entering the marathon is an easy decision for the event is on October 27, a public holiday, and my decision is made in the short days between Christmas Day and New Year's Day.

Lots of time between the two dates, I say as I reach for the TV remote to change channels.

However, I doubt my sanity when I find that not only can I not walk 42.195 km to begin with; but I can barely make two kilometres from my home without every bone and muscle saying it is mid-winter: when humans are supposed to hibernate, gorge, and be slothful.

I ignore my protesting body and carry on towards the cheering crowds at the finish line in the future of my mind.

Tragically, I make the mistake of telling a select few at festive gatherings that I will henceforth be an athlete in training. They should understand this when I decline to linger on my training days.

Everyone immediately takes sides and make wagers on my likely failure.

Nonetheless, the forgotten warrior inside me rises to the challenge and walking begins more or less each day.

I find a pair of fairly unused hiking boots, a wool skull cap and a heavy waterproof jacket and I venture out in the rains to mortify my body in the name of marathon glory.

A surprised pet dog accompanies me on these forays in the belief that it will not last long and calm will return in time.

For days afterwards I cannot reach the remote and have to rely on family support to watch television.

Just the same, I tumble out of bed to begin again, begin again.
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