My boyfriend and I went for a run yesterday. I don’t know; I keep telling him I hate running with him, or exercising with him in any fashion. I know it’s a way for a lot of couples to connect, but it doesn’t work with us.

It’s not because I tend to be lazy about exercise unless someone is prodding me, although this is sometimes the case. I’m hardly a fitness fanatic, although I enjoy exercise – and the benefits of exercise – a lot.

I think it’s because I have a competitive streak in me that I haven’t quite managed to extinguish; I’m not one of those people who want to win at every single thing that they do – and then pout horribly when they don’t. I’m not.

But – blame ballet, or whatever – I am competitive when it comes to physical things. Running faster, and longer; swimming more laps; staying one step ahead. I _will_ run ahead of you, even if it kills me.

I remember running in Hyde park once when I was living in London, sticking to my usual route and plodding along, my music in my ears, my thoughts elsewhere, and then being surprised as my whole world came crashing down. No, I wasn’t attacked or arrested; I didn’t get lost. But this woman came out of nowhere and joined me. Every nerve ending bristled at her audacity as I changed from a plodder to an athlete in her prime in a split second. I’m pretty sure she was startled; I took off like a rocket and then ensured I stayed ahead by streaking through the rest of my route like a woman possessed.

I did the same thing with Kace yesterday. I pushed harder and kept one foot ahead the entire time; he’s known me for years, and I don’t know why he was surprised. But he was.

‘Why do you have to do that all the time?’

Do what?

‘You know what. Stay one step ahead even if it kills you. Even if you can’t manage it. Even if it isn’t comfortable for you or for the person running with you.’

I was exhausted from pushing myself so much and all I did was shrug. But a few minutes later, as I cooled off in a cold shower, I considered his question.

Why do I do that all the time? Why do I have to stay ahead of him? Why do I feel the need to swim more lengths than he does? And why do I strenuously oppose taking the canoe out with him simply because I know his upper body strength kicks mine out of the water?

Why do I do that?

I don’t know. But it’s why I run alone.