I HAVE been running for a few years now, on and off. I do not know why I have to qualify it with “on and off”. Everybody who runs does it “on and off”, otherwise they would never sleep or watch the television.
The point is, I have a routine now. I strap on my phone holder, I insert my earphones, I check I have my key, I put on my running shoes, I check I have my key again, I pick up enough money for water, but not enough for bus fare in case I am tempted to cheat, I check I have my key again, and I head out of the door.
What I do not do is put on my glasses. There is a very good reason for this. When I run, I perspire. I also bounce up and down.
Those of you who wear glasses will understand that perspiration, particularly around the nose and ears, reduces friction. Add a bouncing motion to lack of friction and you know that those glasses are not long going to stay attached to your face.
And even if they do somehow stay on – for a laugh, perhaps – they will just steam up.
Glasses, then, are useless to the serious runner, which is why you never see Sir Mo Farah stop in the middle of the 10,000 metres to huff on his specs before wiping them with his vest.
And yet, if I could find a way to incorporate glasses into my running, it would prevent me from getting into the sort of scrapes into which I regularly get.
It might, for example, have prevented me from spooking the Duck Women.
I was pounding the pavement. I would like to think that I looked masterful and fit, but I know deep down I looked as if I were tumbling forward in slow motion, never quite reaching the horizontal, while trying to catch invisible cakes that had fallen out of my hands.
In the distance, I could see two figures. They were blurry, as was everything else at that distance, but they were moving fairly slowly, and, I anticipated, would not cause me too much distress. They were not, for example, carrying a ladder or large painting between them. There was little chance of a slapstick-type accident.
As I got closer, they moved into sharper focus. I could see they were women. One of them was carrying a cardboard box, and the other had a small dog on a lead. As long as I did not directly run into either of the women or the dog everything would be fine. Such are the calculations I must make every day.
I continued to head towards them, and it was only at the last moment that I realised that the small dog was not on a lead. Nor was it a dog.
It was, in fact, a duck, leading the women somewhere. And in the cardboard box was another duck, guarding a number of ducklings.
In retrospect I can only assume the two women were taking a duck family, which had hatched in their garden or yard, to the nearby park, presumably to rehouse them, rather than as a treat.
At the time, I did not have the luxury of working out what was going on, as my thundering hooves and poorly coordinated body threw the women and the elder ducks into confusion. The duck in the box flew out towards my head in an attempt to protect its young, the other duck quacked, and the women shrieked, almost dropping the box. I understood at last what it must be to be Godzilla.
I yelled an apology over my shoulder. It was the very least I could do in the circumstances, but also the most, given that my experience with ducks is limited to feeding them or being fed by them.
I clattered on, feeling bad about disturbing a family of ducks and their human companions, and I suppose I was overly preoccupied. Because in the fug of guilt I failed to see the real danger.
A single bramble stem snaked out from a wall, hanging over the road at face height. Had I been wearing my glasses it would have been deflected by them. Of course, had I been wearing my glasses I would have seen it in time.
It turns out that being smacked in the face by a bramble really hurts.
This sort of thing never happens to Sir Mo Farah.