19 July 2006

Abebe Bikila, or Who's Got the Last Laugh


6 miles, 52.10 min. Evening run, but still very hot. Checked: it was 32ºC (89.6ºF)

I feel like Abebe Bikila today. The slates on the patio are so hot I can't walk barefoot on them, the granite slabs in the house wall radiate heat as I pass, my Nike Tailwinders leave deep prints in the asphalt on the road, and dogs' pawprints trail alongside...

Evening runs are usually more relaxed and restful, than the ones in the morning. It is hot and everybody is sitting outside looking slow and exhausted while having drinks or evening meals. Many look and manage a cheer or a wave, most have their dogs outside which means that a chain of yapping is following us through the village.

Normally I take a handkerchief and a mobile phone with me. With the lead in one hand, and the phone and the hanky in the other, that's all the gear I can handle. But today, because of the heat, I decide to swap the phone for the water bottle, and I make sure that dogs have a good drink before we set off.

I feel like Abebe Bikila, and I think, oh, what's the fun? We pass the bridge over the Vire river and start a steep climb. I look up at the field of golden wheat and see a huge combine harvester crawling through it in a cloud of hay dust. It is the first wheat harvest this Summer.

And then it comes to me: I'm better off than the poor farmer sweltering inside his machine. Actually, I smile to myself, I am not that hot at all. And I know now how the great barefoot Bikila managed to jump around, wave his hands and do jacks at the finish of his golden marathon while others just collapsed at the finish line.

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