One of the greatest joys of running is how unexpected body shapes manage to run at speeds and distances that seem to bear no relation to their size. I have been overtaken by several women at least twenty years older than I am on the Brighton seafront (including one, my nemesis, who seems to manage it once a month). Similarly, I have overtaken gobsmackingly athletic-looking women who are clearly younger but haven’t put in the same number of miles. Best of all is overtaking the men. The first time I did this was on one of my first Brighton runs, when I plodded along for about a mile behind a man whose T-shirt declared him “born to run” and whose smell betrayed him as a fan of Axe body spray instead of a shower.
I tried for about eight minutes to overtake him, knowing that if I were going to succeed, I would have to save enough energy to stay ahead of him, as the path was long and straight— there was little room for turning off in shame. After running alongside him for about thirty seconds, I managed it. The man might have been seriously ill in his recent past. He might have had all sorts of problems I will never know about. But he was a man, and he was about my age, so it felt like a huge victory to be able to pass him.