There are people you know, but you don’t know. On your commute or regular route at a regular hour, on a regular day. We often see people going about their regularness and our worlds overlap for a brief second. We share the same space. If you’re on the tube you might even share the same breath.
About 20 years ago my Mum worked on Alfreton Road in Derby for B+K. She told me about a woman she knew, who every morning and every evening ran along the road to and from the city. Without fail. Everyday. For years.
Then years later when I started working in Derby I got to know her too. Everyday (yes every single day without fail) whilst I was sat queuing in the traffic she’d run past. She captured me. At this point I knew she’d been doing this for 10+ years – I was looking at an athlete.
Perhaps I enjoyed her sameness. Her regularness. Her reliability in my ever changing 20s. She was always there.
I definitely admired her air of self-confidence.
She never wore her Nikes and carried her work shoes in her bag, like I see many people doing in London. No, runner woman ran in her work shoes. Often in heels. Often a suit. A coat over the top in the winter, and her jacket frequently hanging down and off of her shoulders when it was warm. She never took it off and carried it. Just allowed it to slip down her shoulders, only just kept on by her bent elbows. She carried her hangbag and lunch box in her hand. Never a rucksack. She held them up as if she was trying not to spill something. And as she ran they moved from side to side as her forearms loosely did infront of her. The whole way she ran was less with the intention of fitness and more like she was running just a couple of metres to get on the bus. Or running after an important sheet of paper that just blew away in the wind. Less bent knees and more legs flailing. Her hair wild and big trailed behind her, permanently windswept as she ran.
Yet always smiling. Every time I saw her. No haste. She looked casual. As if she’d just started running or was just stopping in her stride. An in between run. A medium run.
At first I used to watch with interest to try and figure out why she was running. What was her purpose.
“And the waitress comes over and she says ‘watcha reading for?’….what, am, I, reading, for? Not ‘what am I reading’, but what am I reading for?” – Bill Hicks
I never figured out where she came from, and I never figured out where she went to. But I would always try and catch her eye to share a smile. But Runner Woman never sought one. It mattered not what the world thought of her. She was being herself, doing her thing.
With an abcence of back story I resisted the temptation to create one. To develop Runner Woman’s legend and fill in the details of her most wonderful life (like we so easily do, Girl on the Train style). She doesn’t need me to round the edges and add the colour. She doesn’t need me to add glamour or fantasy. She just is. In all her regularness, and that’s when I realised her beauty.
On my way to Derby I saw her today: summery top, usual dark skirt, work shoes with heels, lunch and handbag in her hand. Same hair, only with visible strands of silver glitter. Not going fast, not stopping, somewhere in between. That woman I know who runs.