What’s a girl to do on the hottest day of the year? Well, besides writing up the pattern for a nice warm, fluffy cowl, I celebrated the road-melting heat on Wednesday by putting on the oven to bake courgette cake and beer bread, before going for a 9-mile (that’s 14.5km) run in the blazing midday sunshine.
Stupid? Possibly. But the really stupid thing was being so obsessed with drinking lots of water in the hours pre-run that I forgot to eat. “Oops,” I thought, forced to stop as I waited to cross the road but swaying slightly in a way that would have looked like drunknenness had I not been wearing lycra and a steely glare.
A plan was required. I needed blood sugar. Fortunately it’s August, so nature is busy producing food faster than other nature can eat it. A feast of blackberries, elderberries, and bullaces was surely just around the corner. Time to forage.
But I was wrong. Obviously I was running along at such enormous speed (ahem) that I may have missed a few delicacies, but for the next mile or so I didn’t see a single thing to eat. Not even a beech tree. (You can eat beech leaves if you’re desperate, but I can tell you that they taste revolting.) So I carried on, getting slower and wobblyer as I went.
I passed a few houses (some of them beautiful thatched cottages, but I don’t think you can eat thatch, especially thatch that lawfully belongs on top of someone else’s home). And then, overhanging a high wall, was the branch of an apple tree, laden with fruit. I wanted one of those apples so much. There may as well have been a serpent offering me the snack and a sign saying ‘Eden welcomes careful drivers’.
But. The branch was so very high. And I am so very short. And the wall didn’t look like a climber. And there weren’t any handy sticks available to lob at the apples. Defeated, I moved on.
I did eventually find some blackberries, but they were right beside the busiest road on my route, and I’d paid far too much attention in childhood to my mother’s warnings about the dangers of polluted roadside fruit. That said, I grew up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, so I inhaled so much lead on the walk to school each day that it’s amazing that thieves haven’t stolen my head. All that lead would explain why I’m so heavy, anyway…
Those blackberries looked shrivelled, grim, and dusty. I ate a very few, just enough to ensure a bit more energy and a bit less life expectancy. They were… oddly gritty. But they were fuel at least, and they kept me going for the next couple of miles.
It was quite near the end of my run when I came across a small patch of disused ground, covered in the most exuberant brambles you could imagine. The blackberries were huge. I dived in. The blackberries tasted sweet and gorgeous. But three unfortunate things should be pointed out here:-
Thing the first: Spiky overgrown brambles and lycra running gear are not a winning combination. It seems there’s a reason why marathon routes hardly ever pass through bramble patches.
Thing the second: Eight hungry miles into a nine mile run and a bit shaky with low blood sugar, my ‘table’ manners may not have been the best, and blackberry juice does tend to stain rather impressively on both skin and clothes. Fortunately I was wearing a purple top so I should at least score one point for that. My skin isn’t naturally purple, however…
Thing the third: This was a respectable neighbourhood that I was running/foraging in. The sort of neighbourhood where, just as I stumbled out of the blackberry bushes, swearing loudly at the thorns that were tearing at my lycra, my face red (from the run) and purple (from the blackberries), panting from the exertion of the run, and not entirely steady on my feet, just at that exact moment, an extremely serious-looking and smartly-dressed woman of – at a guess – 80 came round the corner, striding fast despite the fact that she also carried a walking stick. She looked at me. I looked at her.
For a coward like me, there was only one possible thing to do.
I made a run for it.