First day. Hard to get out the door so early. He tries not to think of his warm bed. On quiet streets, he’s aware of feet stamping the pavement, breath coming in rasps. He turns into the footpath between allotments and new houses. Wet leaves slap his face. Twelve weeks till the marathon. Can he do this? He’s not mentioned it to anyone. He passes a dusty field hemmed-in by the backs of houses. A grey horse watches, steam spilling from its nostrils.
Seventh day running. Trainers on before waking. Doesn’t seem to be getting any easier. Drizzle, almost too light to fall, floats around his head. Still takes the allotment path, where no one can see him struggle to combine running and breathing. He scans the field. Where’s the hemmed-in horse? There’s a tarpaulin in the corner, bricks around the edges. Hiding something that could be a slightly-folded-up horse. He slows and stares, wondering if he dare climb into the field and look under the tarpaulin. He looks at the houses, sure he sees a movement. Anyone could be watching.
Two weeks to go. It might be getting easier. He has to do it. He’s come this far. The sky is blue with dry-brush smudges. Now he stays on the road, not caring it’s more public. He’s gone further than ever before. Maybe he’ll register for the race soon. Make the commitment.
Instinct takes him down hemmed-in-horse-field path. Mist swirls round. He’s breathing steadily, feeling comfortable. He turns his head to the hedge. Is the horse still there? Mist parts like net curtains. Out of the corner of his eye he sees shiny black hooves and a pure white rump. A horse-snort. It gallops around the field. The thudding of hooves cease. It lifts effortlessly up into the sky. He squints in the sunlight, sees a flowing mane and strong, snow-white feathers. Pigeons coo. The mist disappears. The view must be wonderful from up there.