That hang dog look

Striding away from the arboretum, the woman in front walked purposefully with a her head down. She carried a large stick, but bore the world on her shoulders. Her body language tired, her back arched. In her early 40s, the woman struck a world weary pose, tinged with early morning chores and in anticipation of a tough week ahead. She was not alone. By her side, two inquisitive Scotties accompanied her . About 30 yards behind her was a third. Clearly older, it wobbled from side to side as it tried to keep up,  its tongue lolling back and forth like a storm battered buoy. But it kept going at even pace. There was strength and determination behind those focussed canine eyes.

I’ve seen that look countless times. I see it when I help out at running races. I’ve seen it in team mates at cycling races. I experienced it in-extremis during the 2005 Lowe Alpine Mountain Marathon, when partner Jules Carter had to put up with my silence and grimacing for 7 whole hours on a day when we were out for 11 (my tongue has not lolled more before or since).  Even pro-riders suffer it. Approaching the top of the Bola Del Mundo on Saturday in the Vuelta, a good chunk of the pro field were fighting their body’s determination to pack. It was written into their jerky sideward movements as they fought their way up the 24% incline and into their finish line rescue by attentive soigneurs.

Anyway…. The dog was ‘digging in’. It my have been last in this particular Bute Park race, but there was no way it was going to give up. It had mettle. It had spirit. It had that ‘I’ll show the youngsters’ toughness that comes from a mixture of resilience, faith and experience. There’s fight in that dog yet.

This little episode was witnessed as I cycled through Bute Park this morning. The image is of another dog in another city (Hull). The hang dog look is the same. Brief highlights of stage 20 of the Vuelta can be found here.

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