18th July 2015 – for some reason, it sticks in my mind. A quarter to nine at night. It was a beautiful sunset run. The plan was a crazy combo: 1km flat out and 1km at easy pace, repeating for as many times as possible over 14km. I’m not even sure what the aim of the session was, apart from the ability to withstand pain, but when the route takes in the nature reserve, the beach and the fields, it’s always fun. The main goal is trying to stay upright at speed on desperately narrow, overgrown trails; enjoying the scenery on the easy bits is next on the list.
It was a cool evening, but a little humid, so by the time the fifth leg-burner set was in full flow, I was wondering if my chest was going to explode. It felt like that kilometre would never end, but mercifully it did, just as I reached the edge of the trails and joined a little singletrack road in the middle of nowhere. As I wound it back from warp speed to cruising speed, the noise started. It sounded a lot like a couple of people running down the road behind me, but it was inconceivable that anyone had been able to stay with me during that last effort. And yet they were gaining fast. A quick glance behind me to say hello set the adrenal glands to maximum and the “fight or flight” auto-response was firmly wedged as far to the RUN-AWAY side as possible.
It’s amazing what the body can do when it really needs to. On any normal day, if you had asked me to absolutely pin another 200m straight after that fast interval, I would have said “In your dreams. Not possible. I have nothing.” Today though, I was highly incentivised. When it comes to life or death, I choose life!
Head down, thorny antlers at the ready and charging, the rutting stag must have mistaken my spindly runner’s legs for another deer. Either that or he was just annoyed that I keep waking him up while he’s trying to sleep. There are quite a few deer around where I live. They can normally be seen bounding away in the distance, although a few times, I have surprised them, finding them leaping out of the crops or drainage ditches right next to me. This was the first time any of them have been bold enough to run towards me.
Imaginary flames erupted from the ground under my feet as my fell shoes struggled to get traction and match the speed my legs were trying to go and then off I went down the road as if I was fresh out of the blocks on a 200m race. Just as the beast was getting close I reached the first house on the road, surrounded by a low wall which I vaulted in an attempt to reach safety. The deer skidded to a halt in the road, looking at me and making some awful noises. Stand-off! No, wait. He’s pawing the ground. What does that mean? Boing!
I sidestepped the clearly inherently evil animal as it gracefully bounced over the wall like it was nothing, and took my only clear option – scrambling back over the wall again. It was like starring in my own version of a Buster Keaton movie. King of situation comedy in black and white silent movies, Buster always looked like he was on Fast-Forward, often being chased and narrowly escaping danger at all turns.
So, now I’m in the road, facing off against the deer in the garden. It makes a move like it’s going to jump the wall again, but I ran towards it shouting a universally-understand-by-all-species word: “NO!!!” (and a few swears). With a puzzled look it, stopped and paused. Perhaps its foe wasn’t to be trifled with?? Nope. Look at its feeble body and complete lack of antlers. Let’s have it. But every time it moved forward, I shouted a lot and waved my arms around, which seemed to deter it a little.
Meanwhile, I notice a light come on in the kitchen of the house beyond the garden. No help from the owners though. They were just there for the show. Surprised I didn’t end up on social media as “Idiot gets chased by stag”, but maybe they were more worried about the state of their lawn as it was being trashed by hooves.
I wish I could end the tale with how I grappled with the antlers, pinning it to the ground and telling it off severely, but sadly the ending was slightly less exciting, albeit safer. I noticed that further along the wall, there was a taller fence, with big horizontal gaps, but probably safe. So we crabbed sideways, eyes locked in the battle for alpha superiority and when I reached the fence, confusion won the day. Knowing it couldn’t make the jump, it instead started attacked a willow tree, tossing the draping fronds about with its antlers and generally acting well tough.
Carpe Diem and everything. It was time for the final interval of the day. Blasting along the road, I was terrified, glancing behind me, expecting it to appear at any second. It was another mile before any other houses and 2 miles home. They passed remarkably swiftly. Good session.
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