Have I mentioned that I'm running a half marathon in May? No? Well, maybe a few times on Twitter and Facebook. Sorry.
One of the inevitable features of this is that I spend a good hour or two on a Sunday morning running. Not an elegant sight - to be honest, using the word 'running' is rather a generous description of my activity. What's this got to do with gardening? I hear you cry (or rather, I hear the rattle of tumbleweed rolling by a rarely updated blog). Well, you see, running is rather boring. Running for nearly two hours is particularly boring, especially when most of the final thirty minutes is spent thinking "If I can just make it to the next lamppost, then it's not long to that 30mph sign...". However, running is starting to get a little more interesting.
After a winter of brown leaves underfoot, brown mud, brown streams coursing over the pavement, and a plethora of brown and well-disguised dog turds (do the dog-owners in Chester never pick the stuff up?), there are the green shoots of spring.
As I run, I've now started to notice the shoots of plants beginning to scramble through hedges and come up through pavement cracks. Cleavers may not be welcome in the garden (though goodness knows there's enough of it in ours) but it's cheering to see it starting to climb through the hawthorn hedges as I struggle past. It seems to have more energy than me. Peoples' front gardens are bursting with new life; there is a particularly splendid Magnolia stellata well worth running past at this time of year, as well as some older gardens with mature larger magnolias.
And when the distance starts to get a bit too much, I resort to taking my mind off my energy-depleted legs, trying to remember the Latin names of plants I run past - a fence covered with Hedera helix, what's the species name of that Viburnum flowering here? Ahh, good old Crataegus monogyna is starting to leaf up now...
Well, it keeps me on the streets, staggering along.