Some previously shy creatures have become more visible in our now quieter towns. Foxes. Squirrels. Hedgehogs.
The closure of the gyms has driven these long-hidden animals out onto our streets. It is quite common to see them now, red-faced, sweat spraying in their drift like the tail of a comet, their breath in short pants, like their legs.
They do not appear to be enjoying themselves.
This is because they aren’t. Joggers do not like to run on the street. If they did they would run to the gym instead of driving there.
To be honest they do not like to run at all. Ask any one of them why they run and the best reason that they can come up with is that “you feel great afterwards”, a phrase that can be equally applied to tooth extraction.
But run they do, driven by innate, primitive instinct. Not a fleeing-from-the-mammoth instinct, but a competitive one. And the most competitive one of all.
They are competing with an infinite number of their other selves. Twenty-year Old Self. Still Playing Football Self. Yesterday’s Self.
So they look constantly at their watch as they run. They have a Fitbit, a device that sees them when they’re sleeping, and nags when they’re awake. They have a small rectangular pad strapped high up on one arm, which I assume is to gather data about them – though it may in fact be a Kindle, or a GPS system. Perhaps it’s a solar panel.
Anyway, all of these things help them to run faster, to do better, to ignore the taunts of In Your Dreams Self, who has given up drink and has not survived lockdown solely on Jaffa Cakes.
Next Monday the gyms will re-open, and the joggers will return to their natural habitat. Bird-song will be replaced by techno music and by the occasional shuddering thud as someone loses control of their kettlebell.
Scenery will be replaced by Sky News on a muted TV. Blue-cold air will be replaced by muggy staleness. The scent of post-rain soil, of cut grass, of wildflowers, will be replaced by the odour of sweat and athlete’s foot powder.
They will be back, literally, on the treadmill, running to stand still.
But they will no longer be alone, out in the wild. There will once again be rows of them pounding their feet in unison.
They will once again be running with the pack.