It is a quiet Sunday in June. No one around. Hot sun on my head. Running along the winding trail through trees – I curve left and then right where the sound of a rushing river and birds calling are the only sounds. And just ahead is the tall, dark entrance to the first of the five railway tunnels. Having walked through the previous day with my partner and little girl, I know what to expect, but now that I am alone it feels more intimidating. I am not fond of dark tunnels or caves so this is a challenge.
It’s cold. I keep moving watching my feet guided by the dim light. It seems longer than the day before. I can see the exit but I am in the middle of nowhere in the dark. I start to yell.
“Whoooo, whoooo, oh yeah, yeah, yeah!”
I am moving faster along the uneven graveled surface. I yell louder and breath faster. Time has slowed down, but I feel like I am running very fast and getting nowhere.
The hot sun feels comforting and I am relieved that I persevered. But should I continue? If I don’t, I will have to go back through – too soon. I continue through the next tunnel, which is shorter and I am slightly braver. Done. I can run easily along the wooden bridged trellis with ease until I reach tunnel 3. Exhausted (even though I haven’t run very far), I give myself a pep talk: “no one is around, don’t let your imagination get to you!”
I keep going. Focusing on my feet, I reach the end and another wooden walkway. Determined, I go through 4 and finally tunnel 5. Challenge completed, but I still have to go back the way I came. I could continue running to the town of Hope (5 kms), and take a taxi back to the campground (highly improbable).
I turn around and stare down the darkness from whence I came. Feeling less panicked I sprint back through the four tunnels until I reach the first – the longest.
Plunging into the abyss again, my light catches the dripping water, but in my mind the water is transformed into blood, and any minute a vampire will jump out at me. I run faster. The dripping continues. My heart is pounding heavily in my chest and I start singing: “jingle bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way…” Louder and louder until I am out and in the sunshine.
The longest (short) run I have ever done.