Running in Autumn

Colin J. Youngson
21 March 2016

I have been a distance runner since schooldays in Aberdeen. Best racing performances were in my late twenties - I was Scottish Marathon Champion in 1975. Between 1981 and 1987 I lived in Kemnay and often ran in the area around beautiful Bennachie. This poem was written after a hard training run. My route took me from Esson's car-park, over Millstone Hill to Donview.

Running in Autumn
Tawny glow fades
from September sky.
Eastward, dazzling,
Sun's disc hovers low.
Early Sunday -
but no rest
for a veteran runner.
My footsteps drum
a steady beat
to lilting flute
of high-rise lark.
Sleep-cramped limbs
regain resilience.
Lungs expand
with conifer-scented air.
Swinging smoothly
into deserted
forest car-park,
I stretch
into full stride,
under arching branches.
Brittle withered sprays,
with lichened green-grey fingers,
scrape my shoulder,
as I tramp over
the pockmarked pathway,
veined by tree roots,
roughened by pine needles
but moistened by soft mud.
I trundle through
long twisting tunnels
with bare brown dusty walls
and ceilings
of shifting green and blue and white.
It is dark; yet light.
Mushrooms thrive in secrecy.
Red squirrels rattle aloft,
where upright cones
display with pride
their spruce summer tan,
while tiny larch
cluster shyly together
and pine.
Working hard yet moving well,
I savour stillness
and pleasant wooded warmth.
Gradually trail rises
and trees thin out.
Bordering the Heather Empire,
fern and bracken flourish.
Abruptly route turns right,
incline steepens
and I shorten stride,
lean into gradient,
concentrate on tempo.
Soon breathing means gasping
and thighs grow heavy,
yet I slog on dourly
over weather-beaten granite
and black peat-bog,
then grind slowly
into the scythe-sharp breeze,
which lurks on every summit.
All around,
a vast toga
of richest Imperial hue
cloaks the hillside.
Over the gaunt, stark shape
of Bennachie's startling shattered crest,
Kestrel, wings outspread,
is poised to dive
from invisible high-board
Into heather-purple sea.
swaying pine fronds,
fringed by feathery birch
and dying deciduous garland
of amber and russet glory,
stretch down
to familiar patchwork
of farmland and villages -
Donside -
the River coiling lazily down
from snow-flecked Cairngorms.
Aberdeen seems merely
a distant oil-slick.
Descending from Millstone,
burdened by gravity,
I feel refreshed
yet time-worn:
the year and I,
past our peak,
are running downhill.
My legs lose spring,
strength, mobility.
I fear Fall
and the stiffening chill
of Winter.
Treacherous slopes
are by-passed cautiously.
I focus only
But then
on the broad gentle path
to Donview and home,
I regain zest -
racing freely.
Today at least
I am cruising -
downhill all the way
through rainbow-tinted Autumn.

Read more postings about Bennachie in the Save Bennachie Blog.

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