It's the Easter holidays. Yesterday my wife and I made the two-hundred-mile round-trip to take our son to stay with my mother in Sunderland - he has a week's holiday up there this time every year, spending some time with his beloved Nana.
This morning I woke up early and went out for a run. It was just after 8am. The world was still quiet. The sky was grey; drizzle had been promised, but it didn't come. I decided to do one of my old runs, from back in the day: a hard four-miler that would take me along the Lines for the final leg.
The Lines is the local name for a stretch of the old Sunderland to Consett railway route. It's never been a working track in my lifetime, just the pathway to the river and the countryside surrounding it. My old playground, the place where I spent a lot of my childhood years.
The last time I ran the Lines was almost twenty years ago, when I was three stones lighter and so much fitter - back then I was the fittest person I knew. I could've (and should've) run a marathon without having to do any extra training.
So this morning I jogged the first mile past the Echo newspaper office and across the A19, then dropped down onto the narrow country lane past Offerton, in view of Penshaw Monument, and down to the golf course, where I took the steps along the side of the black bridge...and ended up on the Lines.
The final two-mile leg of this run is along the Lines: a straight, flat route on a wonderful running surface of tightly packed earth. It's like a running track; nice and hard enough underfoot, and great for building up your speed.
I probably got my pace up to the eight-minute mile mark. Twenty years ago it would've been around the five-and-a-half-minute mile pace with plenty left in the tank. There was nobody else around. All I could hear was birds singing and the gentle pad of my feet as I crossed the ground. It was glorious...but it was also kind of sad. It suddenly occured to me that I was racing against my own past, and for a moment I fancied that the younger me overtook the current me, grinning, and scampered off into the distance ahead of me. He ran like the wind, the boy, and he didn't even know it. Pale and majestic, he left me for dead.
I plodded on, enjoying the rest of the run, but my heart was a little heavier when I reached the finish.
We can never really race the past. That race is over and the past has already won.