Who is the third who walks always beside you?
When I count, there are only you and I together
But When I look ahead up the white road
There is always another one walking beside you
-T.S. Eliot, "The Wasteland"
John knows he's alone, he almost always runs alone in remote corners, yet he can't shake the feeling of someone following him. The feeling overcomes all his senses to the point that he swears he can hear footsteps behind him, they get louder. He glances over his shoulder and he thinks he sees something moving, so he takes a longer look. He's certain he'll see another runner charging up the trail, ready to overtake him with ease, but no one's there.
It's not the first time he's felt this ghost runner. On days when he's feeling strong, the ghost runner acts as a totem, showing him the way to run. His posture is tall and confident, yet relaxed. His stride is powerful, but quick and he glides along, coaxing John to follow at the perfect rhythm and tempo. Tap, tap, tap... In those moments, the ghost runner feels almost compassionate at the effort John is trying to put out and tries everything in its power to help make his task easier.
Other times, when John is distracted, or tired, the ghost runner chases him. The ghost becomes all of John's fears, insecurities and anxieties and he prods him along. It's never comfortable, and, as is the case on this evening's run, John keeps glancing over his slumped shoulder. His movement feels awkward, his stride, heavy and laboured. He knows it's irrational, but it still scares him.He doesn't want the ghost to pass him, but he feels that it could happen at any moment.
The only way for John to escape this sisyphean torment is to try and calm his thoughts, which have begun to run wild. He searches for that calm that only running can bring. He suddenly notices that the sky has turned a dark, dirty blue, it's so dirty it borders on grey. It's the colour of impending rain at dusk. John cracks a smile at the subtle details in his surroundings that he gets to experience daily. He realizes that the footsteps are no longer following him, instead, they run shoulder to shoulder, true companions once again.