“You know what J, I might have a glass of wine with dinner tonight.”
“You go for it my dear.” He replied
“I certainly wi… oh no, wait.”
“We’ve got to run a marathon after dinner.”
“Oh Yes, we have.” he smiled.
It was an easy thing to forget. 48 hours earlier Jamie McDonald had run into Palm Springs, California for a rendezvous with yours truly after almost three months apart.
He’d run 50 miles in two days to get to me, and was suffering a from a minor niggle in his knee as a result, so he decided to take a day off in Palm Springs to let it rest. And I decided that this was a nice excuse to be a ‘normal couple’ for 24 hours before hitting the road together.
A REUNION IN THE DESERT
In normal couple mode – we went for breakfast at a swanky hotel in Palm Springs (because we were staying in a decidedly non-swanky one), we ambled between coffee shops – I say ambled, we mostly hopped on the scorching pavements and dribbled with sweat. We scuttled from one air conditioned environment to the next, and gave up on holding hands. Because 48C heat makes hand holding decidedly slippery.
But it was nice to be together again, after months of broken signalled phone calls and pixelated FaceTime attempts – couple hang-time in the furnace of inland California was a dream.
The following evening, it was time to run a marathon through the night together. Although I’d denied myself a glass of vino over dinner that night, I was at least treated to a dinnertime show. Just across the street, on the patio of a bar with a brightly lit brush script sign that read: “Oscars” there was a party going on.
Throngs of men clutching beers and cocktails were dressed in brightly coloured clothing – some in Hawaiian shirts, others in vests, and the remainder had thrown caution to the wind and opted for no top at all and a set of denim hot pants.
Whatever they were wearing, one thing was clear – they were at Oscars to P A R T Y! Hips girarated, booties wiggled, arms flailed wildly into the air as a sea of brightly clad bodies got lost in a playlist of 80’s, 90’s and noughties anthems.
By 10pm we’d finished our pre-marathon Thai dining experience opposite Oscars and were ready to hit the road. It was warm, now a sticky ‘feels like 38C’ according to the weather app and humid to boot, but I was excited.
HITTING THE ROAD AT 10PM
I felt like a teenager who’d just snuck out of her bedroom window for the night without her parents knowing. This was just another day (or night) on the road for Jamie, but for me this was the start of an ADVENTURE! Gawd knows I love running, and knowing that all I have to do for the next week is eat and sleep and run – well that is heaven on a stick.
We wound our way together along the pavements on the outskirts of Palm Springs. Trainers padding on tarmac, doing our best to extract some oxygen from the hot syrup-like air. It was a harvest moon that night and it was ginormous in the sky. A big yellow-orange orb suspended just above the horizon, obscured every now and then by clusters of blue-grey passing cloud.
Eventually the traffic died down, the bars and restaurants peetered out and the people from the streets disappeared as we shuffled from one town to the next: Cathedral City; Rancho Mirage; Palm Desert; Indian Wells… Neatly constructed curving pavements lined with hip height street lights showed us the way, and each town seemed to be a carbon copy of the last.
We began to notice themes to the kind of stores that lined our route. Plastic surgery hospitals, elaborate country clubs with towering metal gated entrances , mattress shops, general furniture shops and at least a half dozen stool shops too. Yes, whole showrooms dedicated to stools. It’s good to know that if you’re ever in need of a decent stool on your life, a quick trip to the Californian desert will see you right.
The first 13 miles passed in a flash. Aided in part by numerous gas stations where we took it in turns to purchase our nighttime running vices – sparkling water for Jamie, ice cold chocolate milk for me
MAKING FRIENDS IN THE NIGHT
In between the refuel stops, we were alone. Well, except for the odd late night wanderer. Most of whom seemed to have had their fair share of vino with dinner and were away with the desert fairies. We gave each of them a polite nod and bid them a very British ‘good evening’ and then wondered what they were doing there, on a street corner at 1 a.m., before realising they must be thinking the same about us too.
We passed one particular man who was negotiating his way along the pavement with a Zimmer frame (although he seemed to be using it more as an accessory than as a support). His face was undoubtedly one that had seen many hours of desert sun, black shoulder length hair was plastered to his sunken cheeks, and he was sporting a matching denim n’ denim ensemble which was dirty and ripped. He was muttering to himself as we passed, and then stopped to raise his zimmer in the air and slur: ‘Wouldya lookat that! Thasss badass. You two, yuurrrr badass!!’
‘You hear that J, it’s official – we’re badass.’ I smiled.
With 8 miles to go, the wheels began to fall off. Our unquenchable thirsts could no longer be satisfied by chocolate milk and sparkling water stops, it was 2.30am and my body craved sleep. Besides, I had sweated out all available salts and my mindset had gone from ‘this is an awesome adventure’ to ‘where is that sodding motel?!’
We ran on in silence. The moon now shrunken and small in the night sky, and we said nothing for the last hour. Just two people shuffling along the pavements, willing the finish line to come.
It was gone 3am when we made it to a budget Super 8 motel in the town of Indio. We knocked on the night window and waited for someone to appear. Me, being terrible at asking for any kind of special treatment, ever, just blurted out the facts, mostly in one long verbal vomit of information at the poor bemused night attendant. After all, I would have paid a thousand pounds to be in a bed at that point, and to get there as fast as possible:
‘Hi there, here’s a strange one.’ I started. ‘Jamie here is running across America’ (I gestured to Jamie) ‘And it’s hot, so um, we’re running through the night and we need a room, but we’re not running again until 10pm tomorrow night. Can we pay for a room from now until then?!’
The woman behind the window looked at us for a moment, and then at her computer – understandably she was rather confused.
Then Jamie stepped forwards. Having watched me cover the attendant in sleep-deprived explanation vomit was calmer, and clearer in his approach. After a little back and forth, the Super8 legend (who we soon learned was called Christina) offered to do us an ‘early check in’ for a booking the next night. That is – the room was ours from that point and for the whole of the next day until we went running again. Super8? Super Christina more like.
Paperwork sorted, we shuffled down to our room, showered, de-sweated and the moment my head hit that pillow, I was gone – into the land of nod and happily away with the desert fairies.