An accidental run to Smalley Green Part 2

To discover what motivated this journey, read part one. For the journey itself, read on…

I like running, but not in the way some people like running. In the days before I set off on an unplanned run through the UK, footage appeared on social media and TV news of the two Brownlee brothers at the end of a triathlon so gruelling that just pondering it saps calories. In the video, one of the brothers pauses, reels on the spot, staggers, looks about as close to cardiac arrest as it’s possible to look without being attached to a defibrillator, and then his brother appears, throws his arm over his brother’s shoulder and aides him in an ungainly stumble, reminiscent of a three-legged race, towards the finish line where he swoons into pain, physical oblivion and post-traumatic stress disorder. This is a psychological aberration. People are sectioned for less.

But I do get the draw of pain and punishment. To some extent, far removed from the Brownlee’s limit of endurance, I enjoy exertion. I thought this as I began my run from my Mum’s house in Oxford, an unplanned jaunt to no destination, with no time-frame, route or objectives. I felt the light-headed buzz of breathlessness, the gush of endorphins. I passed a sign advertising a coming fun run. Fun. That was for wimps. This would be the unfunnest, unfunniest, most funless run of my life. But if I got really tired I’d stop and have a cup of tea in Subway.

An accidental run to Smalley Green – part one

Something stirs

It all began with an empty space.


I’d noticed it take form in my diary. A run of blank pages, cleaned of life as it should be. The weeks leading up to and after this time were messy with scribbled reminders of tasks and presentations, shifts in A&E, meet-ups with mates. I wasn’t sure how this void came about, but sometimes I wondered if I’d made it happen.


Half-consciously, perhaps I’d cultivated a little nest of free time, meticulously positioning my life outside of it. Perhaps I needed to journey again. Perhaps I was straining to hear the call of a new adventure, like everybody warned me I would.


It had been eight months since I’d got back from cycling around the world, and the journey itself felt more like a single place than a string of them; a place now fenced off and unreachable, with a shimmery and yearnful quality. It’s extraordinary how divorced I feel from those years, considering they’ve only just passed. I get a misty-eyed, hollow feeling when a trawl through my photos on flickr. I feel oddly bereft.


Back home, the sense of physical pursuit faded as the mental pursuit of authorship heaved into its place. I’ve tried to embrace the writing life. Mainly by living on bland food and being broke. But my new flat is not quite a garret, and I’m not suicidal. So there’s still some way to go on these fronts.


How to rough camp without being murdered in your sleep

I roamed and rambled and followed my footsteps
To the sparkling sands of her diamond deserts,
And all around me, a voice was sounding:
This land was made for you and me.

Was a high wall there that tried to stop me
A sign was painted said: Private Property,
But on the back side it didn’t say nothing —
This land was made for you and me.

When the sun come shining, then I was strolling
In wheat fields waving and dust clouds rolling;
The voice was chanting as the fog was lifting:
This land was made for you and me.
Woody Guthrie

My mum loves Levison Wood

My mum loves Levison Wood.

In case you’ve been on hiatus from our star system, Levison is an adventurer whom Channel 4 follow about doing venturesome things.

‘He’s such an adventurous guy’ my mum says.

‘Mum’ I begin, steadily. ‘I’ve been cycling around the world for six years.’

‘I know, I know darling’ she says, before lapsing into a reverie.

‘But he’s so handsome, isn’t he?’

 

She follows him on Twitter. It makes me wonder when she’s going to follow me. ‘Oh, are you on Twitter? I didn’t know’ she says when I remind her. I send her the link, but she’s lost to Lev’s feed, embarking on a festival of ‘likes’.

She bought tickets to see him speak at the Sheldonian theatre in Oxford, weeks after I’d given a talk to the students of the Oxford University Exploration Society, in a classroom. They were lovely and full of appreciation, all 16 of them.