Men wearing high viz and helmets were erecting some kind of high pylon things on the hill under the glare of floodlights as Mike and I headed up Cleeve for a 'brisk' ten miler.
Legs felt strong but heavy and in need of a rest. The stars were so clear in the cold night sky...
"What're they doing?"
"Don't know, but it's a right ****ing eyesore. If it was up to me I'd get my chainsaw and cut the lot down..."
Let me explain:
Every year approximately half the population of Eire pop over to watch some flea bitten nags run around in a big circle, occasionally jumping over some artificial hedges. They drink a lot, spend a lot and generally have a great, if somewhat alcomessy, time. I quite like the shoggle that their arrival gives to the town. The races: a legacy of the days when there was serious competition between spa towns to draw in the punters. Nowadays there is no spa but the races remain.
St Patrick's day coincides with the event. During the day, I'd bumped into Chris (a man proud of his Irish heritage) who'd sourced Irish crisps ('Tayto') and bonafide "orange lemonade" (now there's an oxymoron). The crisps were good.
...up the hill we go breathing hard, working hard.
Mike's saying little which is uncharacteristic. I'm putting this down to his recent run with Nick whose good nature and humour can contain a degree of brevity.
I rabbit on about watching Eddie Izzard's marathon running tour of the UK on the i-player. For me, it has to be the most inspirational high profile account of a runner's journey. He had a cause to champion and heartfelt memories to reconcile himself with. No training to speak of, just immovable determination and a little bit of help from his back up team: 1% fitness, 99% mental strength.
We run over to the gate to the butterfly meadow reserve and then cut accross the common and descend to the sheep dip. Head on past the farm near Postlip Hall, looking out for the sheepdogs that can roam untethered, looking in on the cows and enjoying the sweet smell of the sileage.
Over the stream and up the climb. Pass a stable where I hunt unsuccessfuly for a tap to get a drink.
Up the zig zag climb and onto the top again.
We push it hard all the way. Every time I start daydreaming, Mike begins to draw ahead.
A good brisk run... Drove home listening to 5Live broadcasting from a pub not two minutes away.
Then, the next day, the mobile rings.
"Those pylons? They've only gone and put a great big ****ing sign that says, Paddy Power."