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Play Misty For Me

16 September 2022

I get excited when the overnight temperature on the weather app drops to single figures, but the days are still warm. On a clear night, mist will rise from the river and spread its cold fingers over the water meadows, leaving wisps of cloud floating over the lake. As the first rays of sun peep over the horizon, the mist disappears like a magic trick.

Sunrise was at 6:36am, and I didn’t want to run in the dark, but I did want to be by the river at first light. I set my alarm for 5:35am. I know it’s mad, but this doesn’t feel early any more. In lockdown, I became obsessed with running before anyone else was up, and as the days got longer, my alarms got earlier.

I had a coffee but didn’t eat breakfast. I did my usual activation exercises. Ten years ago I would have thought this too was mad: who would sacrifice 30 minutes of sleep for a coffee and some squats? But ten years ago I could have sprinted in heels. Now I have to warm up just to walk downstairs.

I jogged through the estate in the twilight, crossing the railway tracks and the weir before I saw another person. Three women in hijabs, who I sometimes see at this hour, said good morning as they ran past me on the bridge.

Taking the river path, I could feel the mist cold in my nostrils, and damp on my arms and legs. Over the footbridge and into Ferry Meadows, the sun was up and the pale light turned briefly orange. Over the lake, the sky was settling into blue, and terns wheeled and skimmed the surface. A heron sat hunched on a buoy in the middle of the lake and invisible fish rippled the water from below.

I felt completely free to enjoy this run. It’s the second Friday after school started, my parents are away, I don’t have to work, and it’s the first Friday in a few months where I can put myself first. I didn’t have to do the school drop off. I didn’t have to run fast, or far. Still, I had a goal. Every run has a purpose. Sometimes you set it, sometimes it’s set for you, and sometimes you learn it afterwards.

Today, I ran to drink in the beauty. I don’t care if this sounds naff because it isn’t. I learned that in lockdown too.

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