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Our Mutual Running Friend

13 March 2012

When I first started running, it was just me and the road. Over the next few months, I listened to the sound of my breathing move from desperate to laboured to controlled. I heard the pound of my footsteps on pavement get faster, felt the thump of feet on grass move through my body.

Learning to run in the privileged embrace of an Oxford summer, my soundtrack was a chorus of songbirds, shouts from passing cyclists, the leering of lorry drivers. A student’s lack of funds, and the need to keep my hands free for balance, meant that I never carried a walkman. The first time I really listened to music while running was years later, when training for an aborted marathon. I remember struggling to keep hold of a skipping discman, while plodding around dusky country lanes oblivious to the thundering approach of speeding cars.

These days I never run without an mp3 player. Sometimes I listen to music, sometimes podcasts. I love a running playlist, concocted on a Saturday night for Sunday’s delectation. At the moment I’m listening to an audiobook of Our Mutual Friend (downloaded for FREE from audible), and I’m gripped.

I’m also concerned. My marathon will be run on country lanes, open to traffic, so I probably shouldn’t wear headphones. However, there are only 400 runners, so I’ll be spending most of it on my own. Can I cope for three and a half hours with only my thoughts to keep me company? 

If I’m going to do it, I’ll need to train for it. Next week, I’m going to run for a week without accompaniment. No Dickens, no Arcade Fire, no This American Life.

Just me, myself and I.

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