My 20 k coach

Theoretically, I am in training for the 20 k, so this morning the dog took me for a +/- 10 k run in the Forêt de Soignes. It’s a circuit around the lakes at Tervuren that all joggers will know well. The dog runs (just slightly) faster than me. He also has a habit of stopping to sniff interesting things. So I let him off the lead. I can do this with confidence because when he was young we spent about twenty-four consecutive Saturday mornings training him at a special school. In other words, although he is not attached, he is under control. Towards the end of the run, just near the summer palace and the boat house, I was stopped by a man on a bike. ‘Flemish, French, German, English?’ he asked, most politely. Then he explained that under the law he should give me a massive fine because my dog was off the lead in the forest. ‘I know,’ he continued, seeing my miffed expression, ‘I can see that your dog is well trained and it’s true that there are no young animals around here but, nevertheless, the law is the law and I have to apply it across the board.’ I tried to make a defence for myself. ‘I thought I’d be all right if I stuck to the roads.’ He shook his head sadly. ‘There are signs,’ he said. ‘Well, I didn’t see any,’ I replied. He shook his head even more sadly. ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘The signs are in the wrong places or non-existent. But rule number one of the law is that if you enter the forest you should be aware of the law and the law says dogs should be on their leads at all times.’ He gave me a solemn warning and let me go. Now, I cannot complain about this chap. He wasn’t bumptious or officious. He was fluently polite in four languages. He wasn’t in the slightest bit aggressive, and he was understanding. Moreover, the Forêt de Soignes has in the past been plagued by packs of stray dogs and there have been horror stories about baby deer dying. But that sort of thing happens deep in the forest and not on the paths where I run. The only animals you see where I run are … Vietnamese pot-bellied pigs! (See 17 April post)