Walking trails lace the forests of the nature reserve and wind around the reservoir lake. Entering the main trail which leads into the heart of the forest was like coming home. It had been at least three months. The beaten track was welcoming beneath my runners, and I kept the pace with a friend whom the running group had nicknamed ‘The Missile”.
The route I was taking was a 6 km loop, comprising four slopes each way with gradients so gradual you’d be fooled into thinking they wouldn’t take your breath (and more) away. But thirty minutes into the run, I lost my form and my shoulders were starting to sag. I tried to lift my abdomen, but I wasn’t sure I could feel it anyway.
By now, The Missile had long disappeared on the winding trail. Sweat was trickling below my sodden headband, there was a hammering in my chest, and my leg muscles were tightening up.
My breathing was loud in my ears. My arms waded through the air as I puffed up the slopes, but they proved of little help.
On the return loop, I started thinking about the water coolers at the park entrance. I imagined the water spouting up and into my parched mouth. I passed people leisurely walking along the trail, and I would pick up my pace just to overtake. But there were too few of them and my pace would eventually slacken.
Those dratted hills almost defeated me when the long gradual slopes started stretching away even as I started climbing them, until I was forced to slow down to a brisk walk. There was no such thing as a quick recovery when I reached flat ground. I was running so slowly a brisk walker with long strides would have overtaken me.
A hundred meters, then fifty. Through a blur of exhaustion, I suddenly saw The Missile standing ahead of me on the path. Obviously he had backtracked to wait.
There’s a reason he’s called The Missile. He climbs for a living, and has climbed actual mountains thousands of feet high. This must literally be a walk in the park.
I’m just glad I finished the route. My leg muscles are warning me though, that I’ll probably pay for it over the next few days.