Last week I undertook the longest weekday run of my marathon training, nine miles along the banks of the Regent's Canal, as far as Lord's.
As I ran, perhaps thinking ahead to the marathon, I wondered why memories of runs fade so quickly. The next overlays the last so soon. Once, on the Beachy Head marathon, I met a runner who carried a voice-recorder and kept up a commentary for the whole race. While this would preserve every moment, I wondered who it might be for; did he invite his friends round for dinner and play it to them, all four or five hours worth? Did Borges's character Funes the Memorious, who could remember everything in every detail, run? After a run, I am like those drivers who drive a route so frequently that when they arrive at their destination they remember nothing of how they got there. I do remember a fragmentsof overheard conversation, though from one cyclist to another, 'no, he's not my boyfriend, he's just a friend, he's gay' .
On my way along the tow path, I went back through time, through the strata of my own life. Camden Lock represented my twenties and thirties, before the market became the huge thing it is now. Then the zoo, and the Snowdon aviary, which we visited when I was a boy, shortly after it opened, when I must have been nine or ten. I wondered how the system of double doors prevented the birds from escaping. From the tow path I I could see large numbers of ibis. It is not hard to understand why the Egyptians thought them sacred. Then to the villas around the park; my mother had lived near here before the war, and we would sometimes visit friends of hers. The atmosphere during our visits would be tense, as it often was with my mother at social occasions. I would be sent to play with the host children.