It’s 37 degrees. The track around the park is like an avenue of hot coals. Burning the rubber on my running shoes as I hit the long straight that leads up to the Orangery. The short shrubs along the route providing zero shade as I increase the pace, sweat already dripping from my brow like I’m running under a shower.
Reaching the first corner I follow the route round past the derelict glasshouse and hit the narrow track that leads into the trees before popping up again on the wide tarmac road that snakes through the park. Thankful for some shade from the tall pines I settle into a rhythm just as my mind starts to drift away: I’m not in the park any longer. I’m not in Lyon. I’m not even running. My legs are carrying me away but it’s simply a machine that keeps me going while I go someplace else.
I’m in the Alps carrying an important message for my tribe. In a war escaping from the enemy. A cougar on the plain. A man running for his life. A soldier in a video game. The psychology of running: no thought of my legs, my lungs, my feet, the heat, the distance, my heart. Let my mind run free. Let my body do the work.
The only incline is after the road. A modest climb of 100 metres which cuts left at the top and continues alongside the Cite International building. It’s my favourite part of the circuit. The straight line of the trail shaded by great oaks reminds me of Sherwood Forest and I’m Robin Hood being chased by the Sheriff. Playing out my fantasies in a park in Lyon. It’s great.
One circuit down, I head up to the Orangery for a second time. It’s here I always lose my concentration. Passing the main entrance of the park where it’s always busy with kids and fussing parents. A temporary break on my journey to Nirvana. My head starting to wobble, my pace slackening. I lose the line of the track. Vital seconds are lost.
While I run for pure enjoyment, I time each one. I have a running book and everything is recorded. It’s my journal: minutes seconds distances dates. Sometimes I can stare at it for ages. Simply gazing at the figures. Trying to decipher the code. What is the pattern. What does it all mean.
By the time I’ve hit the Orangery again, I’m in Japan. Siberia. The Front Line. It changes constantly as I cut through the trees and onto the road. As I reach the hill I know it’s not going to be my best time. But it’ll be close. It always is. Because I can never give up. Never ride the last 2km to the finish line like a general on horseback delicately stepping over the slaughtered sipping a glass of sweet Sancerre. I have to give it all. All or nothing. Like religion.
The strange orange coloured building of the Cite International glints in my right eye as I hammer the track. I glance at my heart rate: 186. I have more in me. I increase it to 190 crying out like a beast as I pass the toilet block and scare a Japanese couple to death who are waiting for a cubicle. A wild man from the Steppes of Mongolia.
I have 500 metres to go and I’m hurting. Trying to keep my head in the clouds. But getting dragged down to reality all the time. This is the difference between a great runner and the good. Concentration until the end. And beyond.
I smash through the line and glance down at the time. My fifth best. I’m pleased. I’m happy. The endorphins surge.
I jog gently onto the wide open field in front of the main gate and the only thing I can think about is The Run. Despite being elsewhere during it I can remember every second. It’s a strange feat but I love looking back for the thrill. Replaying it like a movie. Enjoying it time and time again. And then I return home to enter it into my book. Recorded for eternity in a code that only I can understand.