We have just arrived back home after a wonderful weekend in Wotton-under-Edge: a little town in the Cotswolds which is probably one of the most picturesque parts of England. It is in the South and can be described as pretty, wealthy, aristocratic and a place of funny accents.
That’s right; listening to the conversations at the local farmer’s market you may think that you have been transported on the set of Downton Abbey. But this area is not only wealthy and generally privileged (John noticed immediately that there was not a single boarded up shop in the villages and towns we visited). There is also Stroud; we jokingly refer to it as ‘The People’s Republic of Stroud’ because of its long history of dissent and opposition. In fact, Stroud has its own currency – the Stroud pound – which aims to strengthen the local economy by creating incentives to buy local and keep the currency in circulation.
How did we come to be there? Well, this is where one of my co-authors and close personal friend lives. We did work hard on writing an article during the week (on academic opposition, no less) and then John and our son joined me for the weekend.
Glorious weather (forgive me, I have become rather British and the weather is starting to sneak on the pages of the TMP quite often lately). Great weather, apart from visiting some lovely places, also meant that I could run the hills and enjoy the views.
Today I had a wonderful run in the forest above Wotton. Just look at the picture; running surrounded by such beauty opened my heart and calmed my soul.
I was even thinking that I could live there if it were not for the offending smell of manure; oh and the horses; I met three groups of horse rider and every time almost threw myself of the edge of the path – horses terrify me.
This made me question how can anyone run on a treadmill? I can accept it is convenient, it doesn’t expose runners to the elements and it is gentler on the knees. But running is not simply about moving around; for me, running is also about beauty and connection with nature.
Tomorrow is Bank Holiday in the UK; which means that it is a public holiday. My son is taking part in the Manchester junior race – it is only 2.5K but it is not very good for children and pre-teens to do long distance running. He has his number, his timing chip and his medication (my son has hay-fever and can get a bit of asthma). But this race has a story attached to it.
Three years ago my son ran this very same with several of his friends. When we arrived at the race venue we met with his friends and one of them said with great conviction:
‘I am going for the win.’
‘What do you mean?’ – I said.
‘I am going to win this one.’ – he replied.
Little boy was standing quietly the side; couple of day before he had told me that he will never win a race because of his hay-fever.
Now, there are different ways to deal with this one. On the one hand, you could say ‘But of course you will do darling’ which sounds encouraging but can have really devastating effect – if they don’t win they feel bad because they have betrayed your trust as well.
On the other hand, you could agree with them – in that case they stop having expectations of themselves. I went for explaining that every time one finishes a race one wins. But I didn’t have any idea whether it had taken or not.
So we were standing there, friend saying he will win, my son keeping quiet and looking subdued, mothers going into ‘you win anyway’ routine. And then the race started. We moved to the finish – shortly after my son appeared looking serious, clutching his asthma medication and sprinting to the finish line. Couple of minutes later, his friend who was going to win the race finished as well.
They got their goody bags and we were hanging around when little boy looked at his friend, smiled and said: ‘We all won.’ And I could have burst with pride – this is my boy.
I just hope that tomorrow he will remember that the only way to lose a race is not to run it! And if you don’t finish the important thing is not that but what do you do next!