Running in the dark

I recently spent a weekend working in the outskirts of Dublin.

I was surrounded by picturesque countryside, a multitude of mysterious roads leading to unknown destinations and I was staying in a majestic castle.

Unfortunately, I was not able to indulge in these pleasures.

I had a tight schedule, from morning to night, I had to visit five counties in 48 hours and keep tabs on my varied activities.

The unexplored beauty remained enigmatic and the extravagant accommodation was wasted on my weary bones, which would have slept on a sack of spuds.

One thing that caught my attention was a forest park just up the road which I endeavoured to visit, in whatever free time I could muster, during my short stay.

The Park

It is Saturday, dusk, when I find my way to the park and set off on a brisk jog.

Running in the grey shadows of the days end, I delve into the depths of the forest.

It is about 9pm.

The first kilometre holds some degree of light. The moon is shining brightly and I can make out my path.

After five minutes, I reach the mouth of the forest. As I enter I am blinded by the change in light.

My vision goes from grey to pitch black. I am running in complete darkness. I cannot see a thing.

The trees lining my path were a shadowy silhouette up until this point, now they are a darker shade of dark.

There is a deathly silence. Not a thing moves. All I can hear is the rhythmic thud of my runners as they make contact with the ground and my sharp harrowed breath.

I am afraid.

My mind begins to race as I continue to run blindly into the unknown.

Are there wild animals here?

Are there people?

As much as I want to turn back, I force myself to continue. I want to know how strong the fear is, I want to know how long the fear lasts.

Will it subside as I continue to run?

Will it get worse?

At three kilometres, a small white rabbit darts across my peripheral vision and I skittishly jump away from the movement.

Ten minutes later, following a winding sloped track, I spot the flicker of a flashlight in the distance.

My blood runs cold and my mind runs wild.

Is it a car?

Is it a person?

I continue to run. My pace is steady as I come closer and closer to the light.

I make out the outline of a person. It seems to be holding a stick, no, a string. There is a dog.

As I reach the mysterious person, it turns to face me and a second dog brushes past my leg.

I can see it is a woman in a florescent jacket taking her dogs for a walk, we are both relieved.

I run on into the darkness ahead.

Another kilometre and I start to get tired, the high state of panic and the long day are joining forces to render my legs useless.

I take the next turn left and hope it loops me back.

Fear

No human is without fear. It is a rational response to our delicate composition.

Our bodies will not last and our minds are aware of this fact.

Every day we live, we are edging towards death.

Thankfully, making the most of life is not about reaching old age.

Homeward bound

It takes a few crossroad gambles, but I eventually make my way back to my car.

I sprint the last 500 metres and when I reach my car, I am truly beat.

I am shaking with the adrenaline and I feel an intense sense of achievement.

I know what I have done is stupid, but I feel proud that I recognised its stupidity and did it anyway.

I speed away to my cosy hotel with chocolates on my pillow, bottled water on my table and a free newspaper on my dresser.

I watch TV in my thick white cotton dressing gown and order ridiculous things from room service.

I stay up late, reading and writing, and when I can do no more, I curl up in a ball and sleep till morning.

When you can make yourself do stupid things, everything else is easy.

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