Continuing this blog’s focus on some of the weirdnesses of running, here are a few sayings that runners are used to hearing, but which might leave non-runners bewildered.
1. ‘I didn’t have any legs left’. This doesn’t meant that you’ve put in so much effort that your legs have fallen off and you are left crawling round the track on your stumps (is that why they paint them red? I think we need to know). But that gruesome image gives an idea of the pain that you can feel if you’ve put in too much effort too early. ‘To have legs’ therefore means ‘to have energy reserves left’.
2. One thing you could use those energy reserves for, if you had any, would be to ‘kick’. This doesn’t mean lashing out at your rival, tripping him up and using the distraction to gain 30 yards. But again, the violence of the metaphor is telling: ‘to kick’ means to put in a spurt towards the end of a race, with the intention of leaving your competitors feeling as if they had a boot stamping on their face forever (as George Orwell put it).
3. If you were left behind by someone ‘kicking’, you might say ‘I died’. In other words, when things go wrong in races, you’re off the pace and behind your rivals and embarrassed, the phrase used to describe this feeling invokes an existential crisis. I wonder if our friends and partners know that when we return from races where this happens, we’re doing so as ghosts of our former selves who have ‘died out there’?