Monday, 31 August 2020

Just doing some exercise

For some reason while talking to various people and writing on social media lately I've been inclined to use the word "exercise" where "training" has previously been my choice. Perhaps this subconscious action has been driven by the fact that I'm currently unsure when it will be safe to resume the run around the world. I've always "trained" for something in the past. Trained for John O'Groats to Lands End, across the USA, across Australia, across Europe and to Kiev (I really must find a catchy name for that section). 

I now find myself in a position to simply do some exercise for no other purpose than to keep fit, lose weight and enjoy it. I don't ever recall being able to say that. Ever. There are currently no endless hours to be spent planning the next run. Researching the route, finding sponsors, planning flights, saving for a period of unemployment, applying for visas and all of the other many logistics to think about is not anything I'm actively doing right now. I will say that I'm missing all of that. I always like to know what the next big run is and the challenge of getting to the start line, never mind running thousands of miles to the finish line, is always something that I've enjoyed. Equally though, I'm enjoying simply exercising right now. For the last few months that's been running, cycling, lifting weights and attending bootcamp sessions. I've enjoyed all of those things but there has been an unexpected benefit from Beach Bootcamp in particular.

I did my first Beach Bootcamp with David Fairlamb 12 years ago and have done hundreds since often with Mark Fleming taking a part of the session. Working away from home and family life have meant that I haven't attended for the last few years. I'm pleased to report that I returned for the first session post lockdown on July 18th. That date is particularly special to me as it was on that day in 2011 that Mark and Dave returned to surprise me during the run across the USA. That's us pictured below just before midnight on Route 36 in the state of Indiana.

Mark and Dave had actually finished their planned tour of duty on the support team a week earlier in Missouri. Who would even come back and rejoin the team at no doubt huge personal expense? Since 2011, there is hardly a day that has passed where I don't ask myself that question. "Who would even do that?". 

During Mark and Dave's first stint along with Steve Harrison on support duty we got through a huge amount of miles and it meant that I had an outside chance of reaching the finish line in New York on time. Despite those efforts, when they joined the tour for a second time, I was still 160 miles behind schedule.

By the time Mark and Dave left the tour for the second time 6 days later the mileage deficit was down to 120 miles. Just like their first stint, the team work was world class. I haven't even mentioned the 35 - 45 Celsius temperatures we were running in. Together we ran 37.5, 36, 37, 40.4, 40.3 and 40 miles during that time. This put me in a really good position but there were still 607 miles to run over the remaining 16 days. 

I've looked back on the stats so many times and it's obvious to me that it was these times in July 2011 when I was given a more than outside chance of making it 3100 miles across the USA in 100 days. That's easy to say now but there were subsequently to be 308 miles to ran in the last week. Without Mark, Dave and Steve I dread to think how many miles would have been left as the closing stages of the run were entered. Put quite simply, I could not have reached Coney Island on day 100. For me personally, that would have been a disaster. Yes, over £100,000 was raised for charity, but I had my heart and mind set on running coast to coast across the USA in 100 days.

Anyway! I digress. It all worked out in the end and 7 weeks ago, on a sunny Saturday morning, I found myself on Longsands, Tynemouth with Mark and Dave taking the Beach Bootcamp session. Nobody realises this but I was absolutely delighted to be back in their company. We have been through so much and exercising with a big smile on my face (mostly) was an absolute thrill. The session was really tight and well ran as per usual. Given my lack of recent physical activity it was very difficult too. 

I'm pleased to report that last weekend's session (pictured below) was a little easier and I can sense progress being made as I make my return to any kind of fitness.

The unexpected benefit that I referred to earlier was the huge mental boost that I felt after Beach Bootcamp finished. I really can't describe just how good I felt come 0945 on Saturday morning. I'm only just starting to realise that "mental health" is actually a thing. Perhaps I'll write a blog on that in the future. 

I consider myself to have good mental health. I've got very few worries in the world and really enjoy life. To come away from Beach Bootcamp with that mental state boosted perhaps gives you some idea of another aspect of doing exercise. Dave's take on the situation is the support and encouragement I get from the other participants particularly when I have ran so many miles on my own. I think he's got a very good point. I also think that I'm transported back to Route 36 in my mind with a set of people who will stop at nothing to help you succeed. It's only now that I realise how precious a thing that is. 

As I reached the finish line in Coney Island in 2011 after 100 days of running 3100 miles I said to my phone camera that "The significance of this run won't sink in with me for quite some time.". How true that was. I could write 100 blogs to describe how significant that run was and still could write more. 

I relive the run across the USA every single day in my mind. I dream about it when I'm asleep and when I stare out of the window comparing the day's clouds to a particular day back in Utah or Kansas or wherever back in 2011. Poor Donna never complains when I talk about it thankfully.

The run across the USA was so beneficial for The Children's Foundation and St. Benedict's Hospice. £105,717.80 was raised thanks to so many generous donations. The value to me, however, is immeasurable. The part it played in the grieving process is now very obvious. 25 years after my Mam and 32 years after my Dad died, I now find myself happy, content, proud and grateful. 

While my foot has been taken off the "around the world run" pedal for now, rest assured that it will continue when it's safe to do so. In the meantime, I'm going to just do some exercise and I'm going to do it with a huge smile on my face. 

This blog started out as a kind of "this is what I've been doing and this is how many press ups I'll be doing this week" kind of post. It meandered to a place I didn't plan on and I just dumped what was in my head and how I feel. Tune in tomorrow to actually find out how many press ups I will be doing! I'll leave you with this short video to enjoy.