I was jogging slowly sideways to watch this, knowing that I mustn't even appear to be resting. Runners slogged on behind me, more and more of them.
The second master had decided to investigate the unscheduled annoyance taking place in the field and was standing at the end of the iron railing, glowering. To impress the second master, the Heatley House monitor shrieked, "You're going to ruin it for us!"
In the field, Jasper's owner turned in my direction, wiping her hands on her apron and shaking her head.
Then from the corner of my eye I saw a Strachey House straggler, who, close to the home stretch, had found a comfortable stride and was running in a kind of happy trance. I took off after him, ignoring the silent sneers of the house monitor and the second master as I ran by them. Halfway down the home stretch I came abreast of my Strachey rival. I could feel the skin of my neck and face grow taut as we turned the last few yards into a mad sprint. Just feet before the finish line, he pulled a step or two ahead and crossed it.
I overran the line, tripped and fell face down into a soggy mixture of mud and grass. Someone came and pinned a number to my back, but no one asked me if I was all right, and no one came to help me up. When I did get up, I was crying. Hancock, limping nobly, said with cold disgust. "Stop blubbing, you're not hurt."
I pulled the number off my back and looked at it: No. 162. One sixty-two won't do.
I never ran competitively again.
Horses have died on me at tracks in Europe, Australia and America in the intervening years, but I have never cried for one again.