When I run, my looping route is nearly always clockwise. Now I’ve moved to Thames Ditton, my latest loop is more like a long thin rectangle, a grandfather clock: along the towpath from Hampton Court to Walton, over Walton Bridge and back to Hampton Court via Sunbury and Hampton.

This morning, in the endless heatwave swelter, my legs set off heavily but soon settled into their regular six-minute-mile pace. If I’m running well, the pace is metronomic, to the point of possessing an innate calm intensity, some kind of Gnosticism even. The feeling is simultaneously one of being earthed and unearthly. Sometimes, my mind is telling me that I really don’t want to run fast, but then my legs gallop away from me like an unleashed puppy; other times, I suddenly notice that my legs are running with a fluency that is requiring no apparent effort and no instruction from my brain, as if I’ve switched on the autopilot and completely divorced my body from my mind. Dualism in action.

We’ve had just one interlude in the drought in the last two–three months and that came as a downpour last Sunday, when I was out running. I was so drenched that I had to wipe my glasses on my top every couple of hundred metres or so. The contrast to today, when the heat on my head was searing despite me wearing a cap, couldn’t have been much greater. Water was never far from my thoughts. One of the roads was aptly named Loudwater Close. My routes last week and this took me between, alongside and around some of the great reservoirs and ‘water treatment centres’ of London. For aficionados of Victorian waterworks architecture, and for those who want to convert them for alternative usages, nirvana lies in these parts. By the time I got round to Hampton, I was getting so thirsty that all the Thames Water signs were taunting me, but I dug in. Mind over matter and all that.

It was just about that point that I was reminded of one of my haiku in Off the Beaten Track, which nods, perhaps, to the greatest of Kingstonians, Eadweard Muybridge:

surging wind . . .
the percentage of my run
when I’m off the ground

5 thoughts on “Metrognomic

  1. Strolling through your posts, always too long between my visits, always so much to enjoy on my return.

    This summer has been brutal, more so with you I’m sure, as I benefit from the occasional sea breeze. Almost every haiku I write of late mentions rain and its absence.

    Just so you know your recommendations are sometimes taken to heart – I read Carson’s The Star Factory. Incredible, dense at times, beautifully unusual. Thanks for leading me there.

    1. Thanks, Jem. I’m very glad that you enjoy my posts, and even more so that you read The Star Factory. I can’t recommend his novel The Pen Friend highly enough either.

      Yes, the heat is certainly draining after a while!

      It’s great having you as Focus Poet in Presence – I particularly liked your words on what haiku means to you, and your blackbird and goldcrests haiku.

      1. Thanks for the novel recommendation – duly ordered!

        I was pleasantly surprised when Ian contacted me about the Focus piece. I feel like a small voice in a sea of so many, but it’s wonderful to think others might be interested enough to know more. My bird haiku are greatly helped by my slow but steady growth in bird identification skills!

        With the forthcoming editorship changes I do hope we won’t be losing your reviews. They are a highlight for me – piercing, entertaining and always containing really sharp advice about the craft too.

      2. I’m only sorry that we hadn’t asked you before.

        Thanks – I may still do the odd reviews for Presence, but I’ve grown rather weary of my own critical voice, and of making the same points repeatedly, so I’d like to have a bit of a break from it. Then again, I might miss it.

  2. I can understand that. Self repetition can grow irksome. At least I’ll still be able to get a dose of you via your blog!

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