Jump the electric fence – over in one leap, fence and grass sailing beneath me – and down on the grass the other side. She jumps after me in an ungainly way almost catching her feet in the fence. We run on. On to the bottom of the field.
Through the gate and out into the muddy rutted earth on the other side, wide puddles made by massive tractor tyres. The water is dark and murky, raindrops making ripples.
Splash – through the puddles at top speed! Splash! Jump the thick mud! This is great fun! Why can’t all my runs be like this? The water and mud make patterns up my legs.
On, on! Run, run!
Under the railway bridge, my feet and breathing echoing harshly back from the dark dripping stones as we pass.
Across the field ... and cows! I’ve avoided cows since a recent incident and subsequent cow chase – with me at the front - which ended in a dash and slide under a fence. Quick! But the cows watch us, their faces bovine and dull. They don’t move towards us, don’t think about chasing us, just turn their heavy heads to watch our progress.
Uh-oh. A kissing gate. I HATE these. I try to get under the fence but am called back and we go through the kissing gate together.
The mud is up to my knees now, brown splashes on my face.
Through a ploughed field, a single smooth path through the middle, worn flat by other feet than ours. I take the lead and she follows on behind, running, her feet kicking up clods of earth.
Pheasants clatter up in front of us. Over the hedge and gone before I have a chance to react.
Ugh. Another kissing gate, another pause to get through it before we can run again.
2 tall grey birds in the field, standing tall. They flap away slowly and ponderously as we come towards them. So slowly, I think I could catch one.
We run towards the woods, the long wet grass washing the mud from my legs and we are up to (another!) kissing gate and into the dark of the woods. The path is covered by fallen autumn leaves, damp and slick and I want to run along the banks, where the grip is better and there are no paths but I cannot. I stay on the path and run, run hard, jumping the fallen branches and looking for the next trail.
The rain is dripping on my face from the tree canopy overhead, the ground slick under my feet. I feel alive and I am running. Running fast. This is how running should be. The dimness of the woods all around me, the falling leaves flickering between branches, the rain making everything smell fresh and earthy.
I start as a squirrel runs across the path and disappears into the undergrowth. Squirrel! I love squirrels! I want to follow it, to chase it, to find it! But I am aware that she is behind me and would not be happy about going through the undergrowth. I have to share my run today so I stay on the path.
Out of the woods and down a paved road, wide enough for us to run side by side. Around the corner, under the apple trees. I know she wants to stop and scrump an apple but she does not, can not as a group of walkers are clustered at the corner. We exchange greetings and run past. I put my nose in the air. I am RUNNING not walking today.
Through – sigh, would you believe another kissing gate? – and across the fields, the sheep are scattering before us, but I resist the temptation to scare them, to make them run properly. They scatter and come back, staring at us, running through their field. Their plump woolly bodies quivering with indignation at the interlopers, running across THEIR grass.
Another gate, I wait for her - these things are complicated – and up a hill. The grass is short here, rabbit-nibbled and scattered with leaves from the oak trees. We run a bit, walk a bit. The steepness of the hill and the mud has robbed her legs of the strength they had earlier. Me? I could run for miles. Miles and miles.
Through another gate and down a narrow trail. It’s muddy and slippery and there’s only room for moving in single-file here. She follows behind, running but treading carefully. I’m fine. My feet are sure and steady.
A rabbit! A rabbit! Across the path! I jump forward and almost knock her off her feet.
“Wait!” I wait but I REALLY want to run faster. Through the woods, through the puddles and the drifts of leaves. But I wait.
We run together, our feet making hardly any sound on the leaves and we quicken our pace through the woods. It’s spooky here, there’s the remains of a path between the dark shadowy trees but it doesn’t feel nice here. There were buildings here once but the trees have grown up since making dark places and shadows. We move faster and we are soon out into the sunshine.
A view of the town, the houses small and doll-like in the distance and we are running down the hill, down the trail, the grass growing through the middle of the road. The hill sharpens and our legs take us fast down to the fields, past the hunting lodge. Down the sweeping hills with gravel underfoot, past the castle and the lake gleaming dimly silver under the dark grey skies. We run together and it’s nice. Nice to run, nice to have company.
The final grassy uphill is waterlogged and muddy. Our feet splash in the puddles and the mud. It’s slippery and our legs are filthy again.
Onto the road, I stay on the pavement between her and the hedge. She is in bright neon yellow and is easy to see. In my cream coat I am not so visible so I stay in, tight. I hate the cars coming past, the blast of damp air into my face and the spray from the road. We are still running, but next to a busy road is not the same as the soft trails and the calm of the fields and woods.
The pavement ends, but I can see our house at the top of the hill. The road is narrow, the houses widely spaced. We dash from gateway to gateway avoiding the traffic speeding past and a final sprint brings us to the 5-barred-gate and home, off the road. Safe from the traffic. Home.
She looks down at me and pats me. “Good dog.”
AND I get a biscuit.