Chasing Laces – Voices from the Running Scene – Chapter 6

Chasing Laces – Voices from the Running Scene by Arthur Knaggs

Sarah

Sarah was thin. She wore a thick cotton shirt which hung loosely on her frame. Her trainers were muddy and well worn. At very little notice, she had agreed to make time to chat but I would have to come to the English department. She was working on a group project and didn’t have much time.

I don’t mind the recorder – if you had a camera, I’d have a problem with that but audio is fine.

I’m a 3rd year English student. I commute home every weekend because I miss it. Running has been part of my life for quite a while. I’ve run on and off since I was about ten, but I properly started during A levels. I did self-teaching for A Level so spent a lot of time at home. Up until that point I did tennis more seriously, but during A levels I quit tennis because of the workload. I was on my own most of the time so running was my break.

***

I basically run trails. I live near the moor so I just run there. It’s very hilly. There’s no place you can run from my house where you’re not going to run up a hill … and a big one. It’s great if you like trail running, but it’s got nothing for road running.

I have never really been lost apart from once. Usually there’s something in the distance that I recognise. There aren’t many places where it’s so wide open, and desertlike.

Yeah, I do remember getting lost. I planned on doing a new route that I’ve always wanted to do because there was a reservoir on the moor that I wanted to see. So I headed in that general direction.

I was running for about an hour and a half, maybe two hours, but I had no idea where I was. The moor up there is pretty bleak and all looks much the same. I ended up trying to cut back on myself. I wasn’t entirely sure that I was going the right way. I ran up to the highest point that I could, and way in the distance I could see this treeline, and it’s quite distinct so I made a beeline for it. It ended up being a six-hour run when it probably should have been two hours. I wasn’t panicking. I knew that if I kept running I would hit a road or a town, and I could just get a lift. I wasn’t worried, no.

***

When I run in the city I run into the park, and that leads onto the golf course. I try to run as much as I can off-road. I don’t enjoy road running at all. I can’t free my head on the roads. I would choose running on the moor any day to running around here. There are so few routes that I can run here. On the moor there are hundreds of places to run.

At home I run a mix of routes. If I’m training for an event then I will choose a route that I know. But I always want to find new places on the moor. It’s so varied in terms of scenery and the wildlife that you can find there. Running gives me that too.

There’s lots of animals and I look out for all of them. I love my birds, especially the raptors. I’ve seen harriers, falcons, sparrowhawks. I’ve even seen the occasional hobby.

On the coastline you see things like harbour porpoise. I managed to see a sunfish once. That was exciting. It came right up to the surface. I knew it was a sunfish immediately. The flat shape, the long fin. It was quite a small sunfish but I did also see one further down the coastline. That was a big fish. It’s amazing how fast they can move. You wouldn’t think it from looking at them but it was amazingly quick.

***

My favourite place on the moor is called Baggy Point. It’s a cliff that drops straight down, and there is an old coast guard lookout at the top. It’s where I’ve seen most of the wildlife. I go early in the morning to see the porpoises, and the falcons will fly really close. It’s also the place I used to walk my dog, who died a couple of years ago. I loved that dog. So it brings back memories of that.

No, I never went running with him. He wasn’t much of a runner. He would walk out with me really slowly, and then run back home. He knew when I was thinking of going for a run, and did not want to be involved. He was a hobbit.

I find running probably the most freeing thing that I do. Most of the time there is so much noise in my head, and I don’t tend to think that much when I’m running. What I notice when I’m running is how quiet it is outside. That’s why I run. For me, running has always been a release.

I nearly always run on my own. I’m pretty introverted so I use it to recharge. That’s a cheesy word but I’m normally on my own.

***

I do run fell races or trail races. They tend to be half marathons or above. The best race I’ve been in was a 15-mile trail race, which I really enjoyed. That was gruelling. It went along the coastline and up the back of the moor. There were a lot of people running it, and a really good atmosphere.

The times I run in races are way faster than what I can do on my own. I like the atmosphere of races. I like competition and always have liked it, so for me it’s quite a buzz. I’m not good enough to win the races but I like competing. I liked it when I played tennis, and when that went my competition came more from running.

There’s a physical difference between tennis and the running that I do. Tennis tends to be lots of fast sprints, but the running I do is a lot more aerobic. Tennis also has much more of a gladiator mentality than running. I did enjoy that, so long as it didn’t tip over into anything personal. That sometimes happened in tennis, and to me that took the fun out of the competition.

Right now, because of university it’s quite hard to plan things but ultimately I would like to run in some kind of Ultra race. I know that there is one that runs annually on the moor. That would be a nice. My more immediate goal is to just get out and enjoy the running.

***

I turned off the tape after Sarah told me she didn’t have anything else to say about running, so I didn’t manage to record her love of photography, her walks around the moor, and her writing. Sarah was writing nature books for children to encourage them to take an interest in nature. She wanted to film the trails on the moor so that people with disabilities could access the land and life that she loves. What an idiot I am.

© Copyright Arthur Knaggs 2019

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