Wallace stopped and bent over, his hands resting just above his keens. He took deep breaths in and out, trying his best to get his breathing under control. Pippa, who had not expected him to stop, had continued on a little further. She turned herself around and jogged back to him, placing a hand on the top of his spine and rubbing gently.
‘You alright?’ she asked.
‘Yeah,’ Wallace said between breaths, ‘just – let me – get my breath – back.’
Pippa laughed. ‘We haven’t even gone very far. There’s still over four kilometers left. You sure you can handle this?’
‘Course – I can,’ Wallace said, although his voice did not carry the confidence that he had meant his words to have. He pushed himself up until he was standing upright again. ‘I’m just not as young as I used to be.’
‘What? You’re thirty!’
‘Yes,’ said Wallace, ‘but I used to be younger than thirty.’
Pippa looked up the long, winding path that led through the park. ‘Maybe we’ll just do a short run today,’ she mused. ‘You know, to get you back into running. You said yourself, it’s been a while.’
‘No, no, I can do it. Let’s go.’
They set off again, but before long Wallace was slowing down. Pippa reduced her pace and looked sideways at him to see that his face was red and covered in a layer of sweat which shone in the early morning sun. If the way he squeezed his eyes shut over and over was any indicator, then he was in a bit of pain.
‘There’s no shame in starting off slow,’ she said. ‘A minute of running, a minute of walking, it does the trick nicely.’
Wallace nodded and slowed down to a walk. ‘Yeah,’ he agreed, ‘good idea.’
‘You’ll be back to your old fitness in no time. Just don’t let the early days put you off.’
They walked until Wallace caught his breath back and started jogging again. Pippa allowed him to keep the pace, always a footstep behind. He did not overexert himself this time, and it was nice to have the company.
When they got to the cool down, Wallace was clearly tired out, but he looked extremely pleased with himself.
‘Thirty,’ he said, pushing a strand of hair that had fallen into his eyes away behind his ear. ‘Not so bad after all.’
‘You’re not an old man just yet,’ Pippa agreed.