I run along the darkened shoreline, chasing the margin of the coast as it meanders around the restless sea. On one side the bright lights of passing cars illuminate the pavement in front of me. The alternating light and shade of their headlight beams and of the pools of light falling from the street lighting creates an ever changing palette of shadows.
As I breathe in and out, rapid and regular breaths so the sea breathes with me, in and out across the sandy expanse of the beach. The sea is breathing slower, more deeply than me. The force of it’s exhalations brings the saltwater up against the rocky cliff edge ahead in a great ‘fwoosh’ of effort. Reaching the cliff face the water hits it’s ‘runner’s wall’, breaking apart and casting drops of water high into the night air. They twinkle as they catch the lights from the town, briefly illuminated in the cheery promenade glow before falling back down into shadowed obscurity. I can hear the higher pitch ‘tschhh’ as the wave steps back to get a better run up.
The path ahead of me is damp with sea spray and I know that I will probably get a shower. It doesn’t matter too much. The drivers snuggled in their cars with their heating vents and insulation from the elements might well see me and pity me. But it is to steal the thought of another runner to say that they have this the wrong way around. It is them who should be pitied. They can’t hear the wind making landfall from the sea, licking at the strings of lights overhead and whistling through rigging of the idle pleasure boats in the harbour. They can’t hear the flocks of sea birds simultaneously celebrating and berating the energy of the sea. They can’t feel the ice cold gusts needle at exposed skin and feel the satisfaction of warmth returning when it relinquishes. They can’t smell the salt in the air, on their skin, in their clothes.
I am running along the last little stretch of promenade as the white horse runs out of beach and clears the jump over the low wall. Wiping the saline drips from my face before the biting wind can exploit this cooling addition to my skin I round the corner and start to climb up and away from the sea, back towards home. As I climb I can hear my breathing become louder. The sea, below me now, breathes as it did before, no harder but no softer than when I passed it ten minutes earlier. Turning to watch from my vantage point the waves look smaller from this perspective. The wall looks smaller too, but no less of a barrier against the vast rolling blackness of the sea. It is a dividing line. The landward side illuminated as I had been by the lights of the town, the seaward site invisible in the inky darkness of night. I think the sea will need to put in a few more training hours to punch through this wall.