mundane adventures in running

The hardest thing

It is hard to imagine just how hard something can be. Diamonds, glass, steel. A theoretical gap exists between gold and iron. Theoretical insofar as I defy you to directly, without mediation to adequately assess which is which, which is harder, which softer.

A diamond. I understand its legendary hardness. I believe the empirical proof of its hardness. I can prove it myself. If I take my wife’s diamond ring, her engagement ring, I can use the stone to scratch glass.

“There, I told you: this diamond is hard. The diamond has scratched the glass.”

Undeniably proof, but a rarified, refined proof: it’s a parlour game of a proof, an armchair proof, a proof of theory, not a proof of practice.

I experience the hardness of the diamond in a cool, detached objective way. I see its effect. I can make a note, record, video its effect. I don’t feel its effect. I guess I could scratch myself with it, but would it feel so different to the scratch of a thorn or a burr of soft lead?

The hardness of a diamond manifests in a a single carat and a tiny point. It yields by displacement. If I jump at a diamond, it moves.

Hardness, to be experienced directly, needs mass. Hardness is as much about solidity as it is literal hardness. A diamond feels like a flimsy gimmick in comparison with the monumental, two inch thick solid wooden table top I’m sitting at right now.

It’s a characteristic I have truly experienced a few times. There is a firing of neurones as when you see the colour red, or hear the noise of loud whine; this the firing of neurones as you encounter hard, unyielding, massive, unmoving, immutable.

The first time was a dumb damascene moment. A pothole somehow caught hold of, grabbed and stuck fast a bicycle wheel. The rider of the bicycle, me, described an orbit, pivoting around the pothole and was thrown into the tarmac road. At the moment of striking the ground the overwhelming sensation wasn’t of pain, or shock, or dismay, or surprise; the unique and perfect sensation was of the hardness of the ground: truly the hardest thing I had ever felt.

Ridiculous that at that moment I should feel awe at something so mundane. My shoulder was cracked, there was searing pain in my knees, a panic at the realisation I was lying in the middle of the road and unable to move. Still, all I could think was how impressively hard the road was, how much more solid it was than anything I had ever felt before, and how much more respect I owed it than I’d been aware of. Oh ground, oh road, oh tarmac, you are so hard, you are so big, I am nothing to you, you will break me, I dash against you and lie prostrate in your solid magnificence.

I thought of this on Sunday. I slipped on a thin, black, pissily undetectable skin of ice on an inexplicable strip of concrete in an otherwise packed mud path. I flew and made contact perfectly with the concrete: shoulder, hip, knee. The adrenaline of the fall, the pain of the impact were nothing in comparison to this experience of hardness, of solidity. I don’t want to hurt myself. I don’t want to spend £200 on osteopath appointments and take two weeks off exercise, but it is a good reminder of my own frailty and softness and a good reminder of the majestic hardness of tarmac, of concrete and of falling.


One comment on “The hardest thing

  1. shinyshep


    Claire Sheppard

    The Field, 33 Hawkslade Road,

    London SE15 3DQ

    020 7635 2782 / 07799 815 712

    the filed-logo-yellow-WEB-SMALLpng – Copy

    ==================================================================== This email and any files transmitted with it are confidential and intended solely for the use of the individual or entity to whom they are addressed. If you have received this email in error you are on notice of its status. Please notify us immediately by return email if you are not the intended recipient and delete this message. Please note that any views or opinions presented in this email are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the LLP

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s


This entry was posted on 29/01/2015 by in Run of the week, Thinking about running and tagged .

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Join 46 other followers

%d bloggers like this: