Yesterday it was the London marathon. Totally amazing. 38,000 runners, three quarters of a million spectators. Eliud Kipchoge eased past another Kenyan, Wilson Kipsang, to win in 2:04:42. Ethiopia’s Tigist Tufa won the women’s race in an 2:23:21. These times are astounding. It means they are consistently doing five minute miles. 26 times.
So this morning, very early (just after five local time) I eased my way along the sleeping streets of Storrington. I ran (shambled) my own mini-marathon.
Down the lane and past the old Burmese gate (it’s a fake) and straight towards the church which claims 1066 but is, probably, in fact older. Turn right and start towards the high street. Only serious pavement on one side but this is early enough so there is little traffic, none on the first part of the run.
Get to the village high street. At first the pavement is narrow and two people cannot easily pass. At this time of the morning there is no one. The sun has risen but it is still chilly. I am dressed for warmth, not speed. Past the tanning parlour, the Indian curry house and the Chinese restaurant and over the Chichester road (the crossing has raised pebbles too, I am assure, help the blind make a crossing. Doesn’t make sense to be but I jog on.) On past the Esso station. There are signs of life in there and one of the assistants is filling the coffee making machine.
On the left I pass the duck pond and two ducks waddles towards me with six ducklings, bundles of fluff, lurching after them. This is spring and there are staggering blossoms and flowers everywhere.
On, now, down the hill (Storrington was built on a group of hills) — to the pub which has a hand chalked sign, ‘Smaller portions for seniors’ – and then up the other side heading towards Parham Park.
As I approach the main road eases to the right heading for Pulborough while the road through the park lies straight ahead. I take the road less travelled and jog into the park. The sun is up and high-lighting the trees and, yes, the deer.
At the moment there are 347 deer in Parham Park and on this run I see 47 of them (I counted for I always do.) The road into the park — more of a lane that can take motor vehicles — goes up a slight rise, swerves right and then rushes down to the house which is an immense English country estate. The true front of the house faces to the left and what I am running towards, downhill and winding all the way, is the side of the house with the orchards and gardens to the right. To the left of the front of the house is the church which was built probably some time in the 13th century. I went there yesterday. Lovely and inspiring. Balm to the troubled soul. People have prayed there for at least seven centuries. Probably longer.
As soon as I can see the house I can see on the left the cellar dug into the side of the hill. For storing ice. Ahead in a paddock I can some deer grazing. I keep well away for they are very easily spooked. I am wearing a HiViz bright yellow waterproof running jacket. Once I was stopped by the man in charge of the deer, the verderer. He told me, ‘Don’t wear that if you run here in October, you’ll get buggered by a stag.’
Now the road goes through a marshy lowland. Sometimes it is a wonderful, verdant green. You are tempted to run on it. I did once and sank to my knees in a marsh. Keep to the track and you are fine. The road runs straight ahead — but that has No Entry signs — so I swing left towards the Chichester road. More deer high to the left. Sun coming though the branches. Wonderful. I am in a trance.
Ahead lies the gate leading to the Chichester Road. I could run across and then on a path climbing up the Downs and to the Downland Way with the English Channel, the Isle of Wight, and France in the distance all in sight. Not today for I am a little out of practise alhough I have done that running climb many times in the past. Instead I turn at the gate and run back to Storrington another way. I saw, maybe, half a dozen vehicles. For it is still very early in the morning.
I do not run fast but steady. What I need now is a cup of tea — this is England — and a luke-warm shower. They lie ahead of me at my destination.
I cannot easily write about the beauty and wonders that I saw. But,running through the park in the spring in England, God is in his heaven and all is right with the world.