Another gel pick up will come somewhere in the next two miles. I remain in unfamiliar territory but I have watched the course video two hundred thousand times so I have no doubt that all will be fine. To my left and for the longest time, I see a man who has dropped. He stands tall and slim by the side of the road, his face in his hands. He is shaking. Sobbing or shivering. Both. No one comforts him. He has made it past half way, like me, and then he has had to stop. I know that if it had been possible he would have continued. I know it. I want to tell him that I know it. But I don't want to tell him it's okay. It's not okay. He has failed. He has earned his failure. I might still earn mine. His stance does not alter as I pass. I drift.
I'm nearly eight when I learn to ride. I got a Chipper for Christmas but I don't know how to ride it so Darren's daddy teaches me. Darren lives across the road. Darren has a Chopper which is better than a Chipper and Darren's Chopper is red and my Chipper is yellow. Darren's daddy teaches Darren and then later he teaches me because I want to learn too. I wobble up and down Maryfield Close and I fall over against this car that is parked with a man in it. My shoulder hurts a bit, but I'm okay. I've left a little mark on the car. The man gets out of the car and he's angry and Darren's daddy says he's only just learned but the man is still angry. The man says you should be keeping him away from facking cars then. Darren's daddy says he's not my kid, is he, he's the mick from over the road. The man said look at my facking car. Darren's daddy says it was an accident. I run home because I'm scared of the angry man and Darren shouts you forgot your bike but I keep running because I'm scared. Mum is at work but Fiona is there and she says where's your bike, you didn't put it down the side. I say I forgot it. She says then go and get it. But I'm scared so I just stand there and wait. And she says I told you to go and get your bike and she looks like she looks when she's going to smack me so I run outside and stand on the kerb. I don't know what to do. I'm scared of the angry man and I'm scared of Fiona, so I stand on the kerb and wait. I can see Darren's daddy talking to the man. They look more friendly now, but I'm still scared so I stand and wait. After a long time the man gets in his car and drives away. I go and get my bike. Darren calls me a scaredy cat. I get on my Chipper and wobble home. I put it down the side and go inside. Fiona gives me a biscuit. Tomorrow I think I'll run away.
I see the pink jacket up ahead.
I get up early. I always get up early on the holidays and Fiona says she always has to wake me up when there's school but I'm not allowed to watch television on school days so why would I get up? But today I don't watch television. I want to ride on my bike again. I liked riding on it yesterday and I want to do it again. And also I can run away. I can run away but on my bike. So I put on my clothes. My sister is still asleep. Fiona is still asleep. My mum is still asleep. I go out the side door. I am very quiet. It's cold outside, and still a little bit dark.I push my bike out to the front and get on it. I remember what to do. I'm wobbly for a bit but then I'm okay. I get to the bottom of our road and I stop. This is the big road. Joyden's Wood Road. I'm not supposed to go on it on my own, but that's when I'm walking. Probably it's different on my bike. Big kids go on this road by themselves. And I can ride a bike now so I must be a big kid too. So I go round the corner and down the hill. Joyden's Wood Road is a hill. The library is at the bottom. I think I'll go to the library and then go to Joyden's Wood and live there. I haven't really pedaled much but I'm going fast. Fast like Jason in Battle of the Planets. I make the noise that the Galacti-cycle makes. Jason doesn't drive the Galacti-cycle, he drives the race car. Princess drives the Galacti-cycle. Once I pretended to be Princess when me and Darren were playing Battle of the Planets he said that I couldn't be Princess because she's a girl and I said why not, you're being Barry Sheen and he isn't even in Battle of the Planets and he sang David is a girl David is a girl so I broke his Action Man toy and he stopped. Darren's mum shouted at me a lot and I had to go home. The next time we played Battle of the Planets I was Jason instead. And now I'm Jason again and I've borrowed the Galacti-cycle from Princess. I'm going very fast. I remember Darren's daddy saying pull the brakes if you want to slow down. I think I want to slow down. I try to pull the brakes. I can't reach the brakes. I'm going very, very fast. I'm not Jason anymore. I'm not even Princess. I'm scared. I'm going too very fast. I think maybe I should put my feet on the ground because that will help me stop but maybe I'm going too fast and I'll hurt my feet. I think I saw The Six Million Dollar Man do that in a car once because the brakes weren't working, but I'm not made of six million dollars, I'm made of kid. I put my feet on the ground anyway.
I take the gels smoothly. "I'm okay!" I say, I shout. "It hurts, but I'm okay! I think I can do it!" I so rarely speak with exclamation marks.
My Chipper goes upside down very fast and I go upside down very fast and then I go onto the ground very fast and I think my Chipper goes onto the ground but I can't see because my face is on the ground. I shouldn't have run away.
I think I can do it. Saying it out loud, to that friendly, smiling face makes me believe. For the first time, I believe that I can. I can finish this. With the rush of elation that this belief produces comes the realisation that for the duration of this mile that I have spent in Bexley, Kent, I completely failed to notice the pain in my knee. I notice the fuck out of it now, but then I also notice those wrists again and my other knee and my arms and my calves. Things are balancing up, evening out. All over, non-specific agony is my bag. I'll absorb that shit all day long. Here comes another rush. In this moment I can run forever.