Unfortunately, the nature of my degenerative hip condition means that I would now struggle to run 26 yards let alone 26 miles; in fact, even walking for more than half an hour becomes really quite painful. Add to that a weak back, a shoulder that clicks constantly due to years of trying to bowl left-arm spin, and various other aches and pains that come with middle age, and I have to be careful both about the goals I set myself, and also how I prepare and train for any big event.
That said over the past three-and-a-half years I have been determined to push myself to complete various challenges to try and raise mental health awareness—the last of these physical challenges will be taking place in November, before the conclusion of the four-year project the following month.
If I can’t run a marathon, then I’m going to attempt the next best thing… I’m going to row a marathon on an indoor rowing machine; and just for good measure, I’m also going to cycle a marathon on an exercise bike—two lots of 26.2 miles.
I managed the equivalent of an English Channel crossing on a rowing machine last December; but that was “only” 21 miles and didn’t include any pedalling. Those 21 miles took me a minute over three hours, due in no small part to the company and support I had throughout the morning (Louise Hobson from BBC Tees and Julian Bunn, my unofficial “trainer” were there for the whole duration), but based on current training times, this double marathon will take something in the region of six hours.
This will make it the longest physical test I’ve ever set myself (I’ve done longer events, but throwing darts for an extended period is not quite the same), and although I’m well aware of my physical limitations, but I believe that with the right preparation I can defy my advancing years and successfully complete this dual challenge.
I’m giving myself a full six months to get myself physically and mentally ready; and the cause will provide constant motivation. The provisional date is Friday 3 November and I’m hoping that Eston Leisure Centre will once again be the venue, Rachael Gage and her team having provided so much support for the cross-channel challenge five months ago.
I’ve been lucky enough to have had some incredible experiences and met some wonderful people since the start of 2014. I’m entering the home straight now, but I’m determined to push myself to my limit and finish on a proverbial high—and I might even lose a few pounds along the way, which would be a nice bonus!
The absolute bottom line remains the same as it did when I started though; it’s fine to talk about mental health… and never be afraid to ask for help.