I’m running through the mountains at midnight in a snowstorm. Black pines whip past, an empty road hairpin bends into darkness ahead. I breathe in the icy air – it feels as if my lungs are crystallizing from the cold. I remember a diagram from Biology GCSE of the lungs, and imagine the alveoli, those little broccoli-shaped oxygen sponges, suddenly covered in glittering frost and spiky with frozen fractures.
I needed to escape the chalet. Needed to breathe Alpine air. I’d had two long shifts at work and could feel my body humming with dismay – the mountains were calling for a midnight visit. So I wove my way through my housemates at the bar, ducked under arms offering Toffee vodka shots, and ran.
I’d no idea how dangerous it was to run in a snowstorm. If it was even possible with the icy roads. But the inch of freshly fallen powder gave me some grip, like running on white sand, and I quickly adapted to a lighter gait. I skirted the scrapes of ice on the road, like frosting spread too thinly on the tarmac, and wound my way out of the Morzine Valley.
It was an exhilarating sensation to sprint through pure white. The horizon, the flurried sky, the very air itself was a frantic blanket, wooden chalets loomed out at me like shipwrecks on a seabed, stretches of roads without streetlights plunged me into darkness and I would run blind, snow-drunk, in a dream.
I caught my breath at the top of the hill, Morzine was just a string of fairy lights in a tangled mess at the base of the mountain. I watched the fat snowflakes drift down – they were huge, like white moths they fluttered and bumped into my skin, caught my eyelashes, falling into a melting grave on my tongue. I was mesmirised by the patterns of the wind, each snowflake a stitch in its twisting tapestry. I can see the wind, I thought, and raised my gloved hands up.
Back at the chalet, I kicked off my trainers, breathless with burning cheeks, and looked up. Half of the bar was staring at me.
“Did you just… go running?” they asked.
I nodded. There was silence. Vodka shots hovered mid-air, untoasted.
I remembered that feeling of sprinting up those roads and being so utterly alive, and shrugged.