Gunning the van along quiet mid-week, mid-morning roads out to Ilkley, a single song rasping out of the speakers, drowning out the sound of the fans pumping warm air into the cab.
Foals "What went down" is exactly five minutes long. I figure it takes about 25 minutes to cover the distance to the base of Ilkley Moor from Chapel Allerton. Five listens.
It's cold. Snow clings to much of the moor. I can't see a great deal of it, as mist drapes around the edges, as white as the snow it masks. I re-lace my new shoes. My feet alien in them, the sole and upper yet to mould themselves to the contours of my arches. Too tight? Not tight enough. All the while, the first line of the song recycles itself in my head, along with the initial burst of bass guitar.
Up. Straight up. The cold air catches my throat. My legs feel like joints of meat fresh from the fridge. They aren't ready to high-step and drive up the steeply ramped moor. I pitter-patter my feet, regulate my breathing. I feel caged, clumsy, unfit, frustrated. The last time I took this exact trail was with Jenn in the summer. She needed to use her oxygen tank. She was ready to turn round after 100 metres, but she persevered. Of course. We climbed to the White Wells cafe, no more than half a mile away from the van, sat on a bench and simply watched the world go by.
What took us half an hour is gone in minutes. I turn right, descend, traverse, try to find a stride pattern that suits. It isn't forthcoming. Still the lyrics swirl in my mind. It's better than real thought. Despite the low temperature, I feel a bead of sweat forming across my forehead. It trickles down my temporal artery, which is standing proud, throbbing to a drum beat.
As my legs find there rhythm, I am cast back upwards. Now I can push. Guttural noises are pushed out as I exhale. I can't suck in the frigid air quickly enough.
Cresting the climb, I break away from gravity. Every footstep brings a changing surface. Frozen turf, slush, heather, slop, iced puddles, some of which break under my weight with a heart-stopping snare-crack.
I pass through a monochrome landscape. A bright orange base layer an unnatural contrast to the muted tones of the winter scene. Still the song loops in my head. I mouth the lyrics as I begin my long descent. Running hard and fast, bass line ringing in my ears. A smile breaks out across my dry lips.
There are times at the moment that I want to bury my heart in a hole in the ground. It would feel easier. But I need it for days like these. As much as it feels like a source of the pain, I need it to break free from the very same aching.
I sprint through Rocky Valley, jumping from bedrock to bedrock. Slowing, then stopping at a bench alongside the White Wells and spare a few minutes to watch the world go by. Cold creeps up my sweat-sodden back and signals that it is time to plummet like a stone back to the van. Crescendo.