And I know it’s gonna be, a lovely daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay

I am a bad loser. Losing at sport makes me extremely grumpy. A crucial loss at cricket yesterday has made me grumpy last night and this morning and, perhaps even worse, even Pompey winning has infuriated me – not the fact that they won, but that the fans are tearing each other apart on account of them winning without playing that well yet. Sport is something that draws emotions from many that are unhealthy, yet sport is one of the most healthy pastimes one can do, both for physical and mental health.

So another walk today, and I have really been feeling my lack of fitness lately. Once the cricket season is out of the way, the walking bug will flutter again – I don’t have any particular challenge in mind but I do like having that feeling of being a bit fit and able to do long distances without excess pain. It helps when you hear of friends achieving great things – Emily completed the South Coast Challenge yesterday, overnight and this morning, another 100km event. Well done to her and it is inspirational for people like me, deciding I had no excuse not to get out and do a few hard yards. I’ve got sore feet now, though probably not as sore as Emily’s. It is worth it, she would tell you, and I know it too.

A mixed forecast weather-wise and I had a light rain-proof jacket on as I left the house in light drizzle. Rain came and went throughout the hours I was on the road, and after taking the jacket off and then putting it on again twice, I got fed up and just left it on. Despite knowing that I needed this walk, my enthusiasm, as often is the case, was less than optimal for a few miles before picking up at about 8-10 miles; I can’t quite explain why. The new football season has kicked in and Sunday afternoon means football commentaries on the radio. The first half of the big game – West Bromwich Albion v Middlesbrough – was so boring that I turned over to a local music channel, to hear Bill Withers and ‘Lovely Day’. Now I reckon there is no-one, yes no-one, who has heard that song more than a couple of times without trying to hold that long note for as long as Mr Withers. Toward the end of the song, he holds a note for 18 seconds. As head music, this was easy – I held the note for almost four minutes before my mind wandered back to thinking that something could have happened in the West Brom game. I tuned back in, and no, it hadn’t, and no, it didn’t. Nil-nil, barely a threat on goal. So much for our financially over-bloated greatest league in the world.

A couple of lads on mopeds would have taken me out if I hadn’t been too sharpish crossing a pedestrian crossing, also suggesting I could have a cup of coffee. I had had a half hour break earlier so I declined their kind offer and carried on my way. But it did make me realise that life and challenges can be dangerous, bringing to mind the Channel swimmer who lost his life very recently and I am aware of a number of Lands End to John O’Groats cyclists coming to similar fates over recent years. It pays to be very aware of one’s surroundings, though I don’t think that would have helped the aforementioned victims that much. As a walker, anything could happen but one can limit the chances of an accident to an extent.

Oh, cheer up. It was hard to push myself for the last three miles or so and the time I spent walking should normally mean a mile and a half more than I managed today, just over 16 miles. But speed was not of the essence. Happy with the distance and the increase from last week. A lovely day? Perhaps not, but a decent one, in the scheme of things. Er, what is this ‘scheme’ of ‘things’? If I was a Dragon in the Den, and an entrepreneur came in and said they had a scheme, I would want a bit more detail than “it’s a scheme of things – and if you are in the scheme of things, it’s a general situation, and it can be grand”. Great. Let’s move on. What’s the business plan? Give me some numbers? No, don’t bother. Next!

Mental health. Physical health. Good for that. Feel better.

 

Only 80% unfit now

Like others, I have found the Olympics inspiring and alluring enough to have only one night where I have gone to bed before midnight in the last two weeks. I have started to feel it in the last few days and I am sort of glad that they are finishing tonight. I saw that around £300 million has been supplied to British sports federations and competitors over the last four years for the purpose of preparation and support for the Rio Olympics and I consider that money really well spent. In the whole scheme of themes, that is a drop in the ocean – about a fiver per man, woman and child in this country. The good-feeling that has come over Great Britain in the past fortnight is amazing and when we talk about more money going into the NHS – which must be a good thing – this investment must contribute to the health and well-being of the nation. As well as us feeling very good about ourselves as a nation, it has become almost a cliché on the BBC when we succeed at any event for the presenter to say something like……we’ve had thousands of tweets and emails from people asking how they can get involved in [said sport] and details are available at [relevant website]. How good is that for the health of the nation, and saving money for the NHS? Anyone who doesn’t think that is a good investment?

Of course, throwing money doesn’t guarantee medals. So many have the talent but not the application or determination. The money can buy time (and equipment) but that time has to be filled productively. However, I may have the determination once I get my teeth into something but you could plonk a million quid in my bank account tomorrow and I would have absolutely no chance for qualifying for any Olympic event in four years time, no matter how much I practised. At 52, that rules out any physical event – which just goes to show how incredible the achievement of Nick Skelton, aged 58, horsey person, in becoming Britain’s oldest ever gold medallist.

But very little can beat the feeling of achievement. Two events absolutely stand out for me. The last two laps of Paula Radcliffe at the 2002 Commonwealth Games in Manchester where the crowd were deafening as she strode out, miles ahead of the field, to win the 10,000 metres, and the equally deafening 800 metres as the final event of the 2012 London Olympics heptathlon with GB poster girl Jessica Ennis running to inevitable victory. I felt incredibly emotional watching those (and even as I write this) so goodness knows how they felt.

I had just a smidgen of that as I finished London 2 Brighton, almost three months ago now, as the crowd in the grandstand could obviously see me (from quite a way out) hobbling and walking pretty slowly over the last kilometre into Brighton Kemptown Racecourse. It helped that there was no-one that near me – there had been a few just in front of me but they had moved well ahead – and it was brilliant to have the attention of the crowd all to myself. I must have looked in a bad way as the MC was going on about guts, determination, courage, will to finish etc rather than how fresh I looked. Just for a few minutes, I felt it was all me, me, me and why not? It was such an incredible feeling.

So that can only spur me on to have that feeling again, but this time with the comments on how fresh I look, remarkable human specimen and all that. Perhaps. I will be doing something along those lines next year but I haven’t decided what. The first thing is to get in a condition where I am physically able. I feel about as unfit as I have for five years and I reckon I need five walks to build up to an acceptable level. So after today I am only 80% unfit. Just over 12 miles this afternoon and no real suffering involved. The feet have lulled themselves into a false sense of security but “Feet – I have news for you – you’ve had your holiday. Fame costs, and here’s where you start paying”.

A little rain that helped to keep me fairly cool but never more than light steady stuff and never more than for a few minutes at a time. I was in such good spirits and really happy to get back on the road. Ok, it’s not a distance that should be that much to shout about but I like to build up steadily rather than thrash out a long walk without being confident of fitness. I do have a Bank Holiday coming up and a two week break in September, one week away with Pammy and the other week might have three or four walks, as might the Pammy week. I have plans for walking from Chichester Station to home, which is a minimum 23 mile walk by the shortest viable route. Take in Portsdown Hill and it could be a tough 25-28 miler, obviously with a big hilly thing at mid-distance. The uncertainty over that distance reflects the choice in turnings at the top of the hill.

So, yes, I’m back in training, even if that sounds as if I have delusions of grandeur as an elite athlete. Just keep me grounded. Tell me that you saw me and I looked knackered.