The logo that Tony had designed was one of these ultra-modern looking affairs with black horizontal lines, and an arrowhead from them, leading ahead from a two-letter block that incorporated the initials of the name he proposed for our venture – GF for Going Forward. Susie and I liked the name providing that it wouldn’t infringe anyone else’s copyright or trademarks. I promised to look into it. Susie and Tony had also been sending off job applications, Tony already had a job interview invitation for the week of our planned plenary meeting. It wasn’t a long meeting but it had been worthwhile.
In the Running
Now in the final week of February, the weather was beginning to change. The nights were lighter: it wasn’t even six and it wasn’t dark yet. The temperature had risen a fair amount – even compared with just the previous week. We were still getting occasional showers, and in the park that night there was a light drizzle – but nothing serious. On nights like this, I’d usually be sat by the fireside, reading or watching television, but hey, we were at the back end of February with Spring just around the corner.
When I arrived at the park, some people were already jogging their way around, mostly in small groups of two or three. I couldn’t see Susie, but I was expecting her. I waited in the car, which I’d parked in a position to be able to watch in comfort. I didn’t feel confident enough either to start running solo or to impose myself with a group of people who didn’t know me from Adam. It was a strange feeling for me. Usually, I could walk into a room full of business people and mix easily. Somehow, this jogging business felt like a different culture – people who seemed very focused on physical performance and fitness: almost a cult.
Watching the runners, my mind was elsewhere, so it was a shock when there was a sharp double knock on my front passenger window. My head whipped round to see who it was and what they wanted, but it was Susie. She opened the door on her side and poked her head in.
“What on earth are you doing sat there?” she demanded, “this isn’t a spectator sport. Get out and get training. You won’t get fit for Saturday’s run like that.”
She was wagging a finger at me and laughing.
“Yes, Ma’am. Of course, Ma’am,” I said hurrying out onto the pavement.
She was already in her kit, but I had to remove my fleece and throw it onto the backseat before I locked the car and ran to join her.
“Come on,” she said, “There’s a group just over there that I’ll introduce you to.”
She turned and started running across the park. As we met up with her friends, I was already trailing behind. They’d stopped when they saw us and waited. I met Jake, Louise, Debbie and Jenny. I could see that, like the people the previous Saturday, they were appraising me, my kit and, possibly, my relationship with Susie. She briefly explained that we were working together on a project and that she’d press-ganged me into trying the Parkruns. I was welcomed and then we set off in a small peloton – a term that seemed to me, a cyclist, to suit the situation.
By the time we’d finished jogging for the evening it was quite dark except for the excellent lighting that was provided around the park. We sheltered, along with other groups, beneath the shelter of the bandstand in the centre of the park’s grassed area. I couldn’t remember everyone’s names, but they were all friendly – and united by their enthusiasm for what they were doing. I was asked by a few people whether I was from a different parkrun group; how was I enjoying it, and so on. Only a couple of them asked about my background – married/single/other – where I lived, and what I did for a living. Most of them did want to know whether I’d be there on Saturday. Susie asked me whether I’d mind giving a lift home to Jenny who lived in my direction.
When we got into my car, I asked her whereabouts she lived as I towelled my head and switched on the engine, heater and wipers. Jenny was probably in her late twenties, early thirties – about the same age as Susie I suppose. She told me that she and Debbie were both divorced, and that she was a single mum with a part time job as a freelance accountant. She wasn’t in the car for long before I dropped her off near her house, but she’d made sure to ask if there was any romantic attachment between Susie and myself.
Over the noises of the car, I assured her that we were simply people working together – and, I hoped, becoming friends. She seemed surprised – I couldn’t imagine why. I told her that I was only recently separated from my wife, a single, unemployed dad and that Susie was, like her, much too young to be interested in a future with someone like me. I said that Susie had told me about the meetings with her friends where tales of dating exploits were regularly exchanged. I imagined, I told her, that a lovely young woman like Susie, almost certainly had lots of more suitable boyfriends trailing after her.
She made a raspberry sound with her mouth and asked whether I was fishing. I said that I had no idea what she meant, but the conversation ended there, since we’d arrived at her house.
Driving home, that conversation had my mind chasing in several directions. Her reaction to what I’d said was puzzling in the extreme. I decided in the end that she was just seeing something that she wanted to see. I couldn’t believe that anyone would think that Susie would fancy me in a million years.
Saturday was bright, cloudless and bitterly cold. I kept my fleece on until the last possible moment. I felt a lot more comfortable though. I recognised, and was recognised by, quite a few people. I ran a couple of times slowly around the course to remind myself of the turns. When I stopped at the bandstand to talk to other runners, conversation was easier for me and it wasn’t long before Susie joined us. I thought about the conversation with Jenny two nights previously. Susie looked gorgeous – her athletic build, her happy expression, her red hair gleaming softly in the early morning light. How on earth could Jenny have imagined a relationship between us?
We walked down to the start point together but, once the run began, she moved ahead effortlessly. Jake jogged alongside me – I remembered that he’d been Susie’s running companion the week before. He didn’t seem to be in a particular hurry, just providing a pace for me to follow as we talked. By the time we reached the finish point, my time was better by three whole minutes. I didn’t know whether this should be attributed to Thursday’s training or to Jake’s pace-making, though I suspected that it was more likely to be the latter. Susie was talking to Jenny and a to young guy I didn’t recognise. She waved to me to join them.
I didn’t have much to contribute to their conversation, which was mainly about blisters, trainers, times and wrist-mounted devices that recorded and stored performance information of various types. The young man, Damian, encouraged me to buy one for my own use so that I could track improvements in my performance. Someone else was providing Jenny with a lift home so there was no chance to continue our last discussion.
Today my featured photo was taken in Liverpool in January 2020 inside the Liverpool Council for Voluntary Services Building (LCVS). It shows the spiral staircase from below. I’ll provide another photos tomorrow.
The Exif data are as follows: Pentax K-1 36 MP full frame camera with a 15-30 mm f/2.8 lens @ 15 mm and f/8. Shutter speed was 1 secs and the ISO 100. The shot was mounted on a tripod and post processed in Lightroom Classic.