My recent revelation has given me cause to stop and appreciate the world in a new light.
Becoming a runner had changed the way that I saw the world.
Every road was a potential racetrack, every footpath could be used to formulate a new route and every person on these routes was a potential competitor.
I was arguably getting a little carried away with my new hobby, but with nothing else to focus my efforts on I found that I was constantly reading articles on running and eagerly planning new ways that I could improve my technique.
Although I’d only planned on stopping in Stirling for half a day or so, I had soon found myself a boarding house to stay in. Stirling is a city that doesn’t get as much attention as it should, I don’t think I’d ever heard of it before making the trip. It received it’s city status in 2002 as part of the Queen’s Golden Jubilee, has a grand University campus, as well as a commanding castle overlooking the town – still it’s population is small, around 36,000, which makes this charming Scottish city feel more like a overgrown town than anything else.
At this time of year, my land lady tells me, the town is particularly quiet. The 11,000 or so students have left the city, returning to their homes for Christmas, leaving the city deathly quiet but peaceful as well. I’ve got into a strange kind of rhythm living here now, caught somewhere between the identity of a local resident and tourist. I wake up each morning to go for a run, softly closing the rickety front door behind me so as not wake up my host.
Stirling is under ice early in the morning.
Temperatures often dip below freezing during the night making the cobbled streets treacherous territory for unseasoned joggers like myself. Still, the air is crisp and the skies are often blue – so as long as I don’t slip over on the front door step, I usually find that I can reach a good pace after a few minutes of nervous power walking. From the city centre I run with the castle looming over me, casting a shadow over the Church of the Holy Rude.
From there I head out over the River Forth and over to the University grounds. With the students all but vanished, the campus has a strange ghost town feeling to it. The lakes lie still with the bare trees sitting next to them and I feel like I’m drifting through a painting. By the time I think about heading back to the boarding house my breath is short and I start to regret all the beer and fine food that I’ve been inhaling in the last few months.
When I get back, Margaret, my landlady, has an ample Scottish breakfast laid out that sends me into thankful raptures which she demurely accepts. We make an odd couple, nattering away over our square sausages whilst the dog runs circles around the dining table.