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.