I’ve gone past him again on the hill, heard him breathing hard as I went past and then silence as he fell behind me. I push on downhill, nervous in case I fall, concentrating hard so I don’t, watching out for ruts and stones ready to rise up from nowhere and trip me up. I go faster and then faster still. I’m at my limit and then I hear his breathing behind me, feel his breath on my shoulder. No need to turn round, I know he is there.
I go faster, up the stakes, take more risks, the land beneath my feet now a blur, my only thought ‘if you’re going to beat me you’re going to work for it’.
We race like this for two miles, two people unwilling to give in, unwilling to give an inch, unable to slow a fraction in case the other detects it and senses that the moment has come for them to make their move.
Eyes focused intently on where we are going, running as nature intended, no thought put into it now, this is not the time for thinking, this is the time for doing.
A small uphill, I push hard, increase the pace and he is gone. The sound of his breathing recedes in the distance, hot breath replaced by cold air. He is gone, I have won this personal race within a race and now as my legs begin to ache and tire I slow down slightly and look forward to the finish.