Have you seen the racing man?
Looking out of the train window a lone figure chases over brambles, roots and concrete inertia alongside the rail track but the train eventually outpaces him stride for stride. But still he races, hopping, bounding, stumbling, throwing himself forward, reaching out to grab the doors, the woodwork or something else, invisible to us commuters in the train but visible to himself, the man who races trains.
He races every morning, never from a standing start, but he’s always there as we take the wide curve out to East Midlands Parkway, racing long the path next to the lake, coursing through the water, sometimes running along its surface, always catching up, sometimes in line with us seated commuters, sometimes if we slow down on that arc, getting ahead of us. We’re too far away to see the look on his face but you’d be sure he is staring in delight as he races by us, water splashing, trails leaving ripples marking where he’s been.
And when I say ‘racing’ I mean racing: not ambling, jogging or sprinting. I mean really racing at full pelt. On a good stretch racing man keeps up with the train and must be doing at least 90mph. This is no Usain Bolt at work. Racing Man is a true one off, a force of nature that no-one I’ve met can yet explain.
You can’t be sure of his age; the Lycra gives nothing away and his pace, likewise. His frame is slight but muscular and toned. But the track suit hides everything else. Sometimes he waves at us as we speed away but he doesn’t slow down but just banks off to the left, racing towards the distant woods.
The racing man running against the trains. Who else sees him? I’m never sure because no-one comments on him, no-one smiles at me in recognition when I look back to the carriage.
This morning though was different. I looked away from the racing man and saw a woman look at me at the same time. We smiled briefly at each other but then both looked back outside. Looking for the racing man disappearing into the woods. Well, I was. I’m not sure what she was looking at. The next moment we’re into a railway tunnel and the racing man will not be seen until tomorrow.