It’s a hard ask to walk too far at the moment, but I fitted in a nice 13 miles this afternoon. While repeating myself from the last couple of blog posts, and apologies for boring you, my feet were severely damaged five weeks ago and that distance today was about the limit without delaying recovery further. I have lost a fair amount of skin off the soles and it is gradually replenishing itself but it takes time for the feet to develop any renewed resilience. So, all in all, without any great pain involved, I was more than satisfied with 13.
It has been like having a first child in that, now a few weeks have passed, the odd person or two has been asking me about my next one, though in my case they have referred to any plans for the next walk rather than the next child. Of course, when I said – in the aftermath of the Thames Path Challenge – that that would be my last ultra (100 km) challenge, it is said at the point when I am most in pain. There is every chance that something like the 2018 Jurassic Coast Challenge from Poole to Bridport or the ‘Race to the Stones’ could just be on the cards. But in the short term I fancy something different.
Perhaps the next one won’t be a walking challenge, after all. As I was watching The One Show earlier in the week, I heard the annual announcement of the Rickshaw Challenge for BBC Children In Need, where a small team of riders, all of whom have been supported by BBC Children In Need funded projects, cycle a long distance over a number of days. This year, six riders will ride 500 miles from London to Glasgow between 9-17 November. I am hoping to try and match that distance over the same number of days.
My Life of Cycling would be a short book, if not a mere leaflet. I never had a bicycle as a child and barely rode a bike at all, not because of poverty but out of choice. I preferred to walk everywhere, even then. It was only when I was 23, studying at Southampton University and in a rented house around three miles away, that my landlord and one of my housemates suggested that I could cycle in. I had to take the landlord’s bike into the car park of a local pub to ride round and gain confidence that I could actually do it, prior to venturing onto the road. Within a week of cycling in to study, I was feeling too vulnerable to some aggressive car and lorry drivers in tight roads and I jacked it in. I have not ridden a bike on the road since, and have never owned a bike.
So a cycling challenge could not reasonably be on the road. But we do have a small gym at home, from when we converted our garage about eight years ago. Use of these facilities comes and goes, and now Matt uses it far more than me, despite him not even living here any more. However, this seems like an opportunity. It doesn’t seem implausible to match the distances on the corresponding days. After all, if six disadvantaged youngsters can do it, surely I can at least have a go:
Day 1: BBC Broadcasting House London to North London. 14 miles (22.5 km)
Day 2: to Banbury. 63 miles (101.4 km)
Day 3: to Cannock. 65 miles (104.6 km)
Day 4: to Salford. 69 miles (111.0 km)
Day 5: to Morecambe. 57 miles (91.7 km)
Day 6: to Penrith. 59 miles (94.9 km)
Day 7: to Hawick. 66 miles (106.2 km)
Day 8: to Edinburgh. 53 miles (85.3 km)
Day 9: to Glasgow. 54 miles (86.9 km).
I insert the distance in kilometres since the bike in our gym works in kilometres rather than miles. I don’t expect the first four days to trouble me since Day 1 is short, Days 2-4 are long but they would be on Friday to Sunday when I may well have more time available. The second raft of days will be compromised by work – I am not intending to take too much time off work during this week but I might finish relatively early to fit in sufficient cycling time. In a typical gym session, I could knock off about 30 km in an hour when I used to go, but what I can do now I don’t really know. It is not like cycling on the road, with hills, wind and lorry drivers beeping their horns but it will be hard. I wouldn’t be doing this on the highest tension setting, that’s for sure, but it would be at least with a bit of resistance.
I am pretty much committing to this challenge, just by writing all of this. I won’t be doing it for a specific charity and won’t be setting up another Just Giving page, but will simply be asking everyone to remember to pledge and donate to Children In Need. I will be having a session tomorrow to give myself a bit of confidence, not to say ‘cycling fitness’. Having a ride after work will become the order of the day, so to speak, to get into a completely different type of condition to that needed or developed from long distance walking. And I won’t need to punish my feet and I can let them recover. It won’t be my feet that suffer here.
So, that is it. Gauntlet. Thrown Down. By Me. At Me. Challenge Accepted.