The Float

The past is a different country.

Out of frame

Out of frame


I am one of 6 children and this is what we looked like in 1981.

I’m the one in the home-knit yellow jumper proudly holding the cake. Why I’m off to the edge and the pillar is getting a higher billing than me is something I am not too sure of. This was my 10th Birthday and we had been brought to a local McDonalds rip-off called Mandys. The self same Mandys is now one of the many McDonalds we have here but back in 1981 the expansion of Ronald’s empire was but a lusty thought.

In the olden days a trip to a fast food restaurant for your birthday, some paper hats, a polaroid and a Coca Cola bottle radio was the equivalent of iPads and a trip to Euro Disney for the whole family.

We were simple then………..(I’m tempted to extrapolate here.)

All 6 of us are still together although geography does tend to interfere with things but the advent of social media helps to mitigate that sort of thing. We each have our own lives and there are 15  grandchildren to replace us now.

The reason a photo like this is evocative is because of how it compresses memory timelines making the distant past seem so recent (that’s the purpose of family photos – they make the instantaneous moment ever enduring). I could write a long post on each of the 6 of us but that’s not the purpose of this blog so you can make up your own stories.

Onto the running bit: I had an 18 mile run yesterday in the late afternoon that brought with it one of the ever so rare moments you always dream of – the float –

The disconnection between effort, time, distance and mental focus. To set the scene, I had had a slow morning with a dog walk and then a blue moon moment where I decided to make an effort to help with the ironing. Helping with the ironing is one of the domestic responsibilities that men should do more of, like stacking the dishwasher or cleaning the toilet. The problem with embarking on this sort of helping is that what invariably happens is that your significant other realises that she is married to a corner cutter. Someone for whom 70% right is a first class honour whereas she approaches these jobs with the obsessive eye for detail that only a grand master would be able to bring to the task. Anyway, my half assed approach to ironing was eventually accepted by the grand master as her fanatical attention to detail meant that there was a mountain of un-ironed underwear and tee-shirts (I told you she was fanatical) that would not suffer too much from my weak efforts.

After this bout of domesticity I struck off for the run more out of obligation that any sort of enthusiasm as I was still testing my head cold. The miles clicked by without much trouble and then, somewhere between mile 11 and 12, it happened. That magical moment where everything clicks together – your legs tick over with a metronomic hypnotic regularity, your sense of spatial awareness evaporates and you become a passenger within your own body. There is no effort. It’s somebody else’s breathing, someone else’s legs, someone else’s eyes. You are only viewing the monitor.

This feeling of effortless running that is disconnected from normal perceptions of time and space is known as the float.  Running isn’t the only place you’ll experience this sort of thing; most intense and convergent activities can deliver the same feeling – sitting an exam that’s going well, playing a piece of music, developing a project at work. You get the gist, you don’t believe it’s you as it all seems too easy and that doesn’t match your normal script for these events.

Anyway, it didn’t last; by about mile 16 or 17 I had to start doing some metal arithmetic on how far to run to make it exactly 18 miles to my front door. This is what’s know as the OCD element of the run.  Runners will never tire from telling you how much they seek the float and the peace that running brings them but they’ll never tell you about running up and down outside their house until the GPS eventually indicates a round number and they are set free.  Nobody can run 9.8 miles.




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