My mission wasn’t just to run 3 miles a day for 30 days but to be the type of runner that occupants of passing cars would admire for their technique and pace. To this end I failed miserably. There were multiple reasons for my failure, including, but not limited to:
- Most of my running was done in work during my lunchbreak on a treadmill that began to smoke when my pace was anything over 7mph.
- I often wore boxer shorts that chafed my skin, once causing a river of blood to run down my left thigh.
- My footwear were 6 years old and had less support than an unemployed single-parent with 3 dependent children.
- I greatly over estimated my fitness and athleticism.
I used to be a good runner. As a teenager I played a lot of sports and had man-proportioned leg muscles by the age of 14. I’m talking quad muscles like an AC Milan midfielder in the late 1980s. I ran cross country for my school, made it to the regional finals, and finished 4th (I think). I found running easy, if slightly boring, and often finished races with plenty of energy left when those around me collapsed over the line. I know, I know, bad race management.
Fast forward 20 years and I’m 34 and sitting in my canteen listening to my ‘running‘ colleagues describe their pacing, and hydration, and compression shorts, and the best 5 miler in the area. Worse than this there was always the suggestion that running was in some way spiritual or otherworldly. I hated these conversations, the runners all seemed so smug and self-satisfied. They weren’t even running I helpfully pointed out once, they were jogging. This clarification did not go down well. I also didn’t really view runnning as a sport, running to me was a vigorous activity for people with few friends and even less applicable talent. If you ran to get fit for football, fine, but running for running’s sake?, I’m with Kenny Powers on Crossfit on that one.
Fast forward another 4 years and I’m 38 and unfit and 4 days deep into my first 30 day challenge. My legs ache to the extent that walking up stairs is difficult, really difficult. While running I was slower and more cumbersome than I thought possible. The gap between what I thought I’d run like like and what I was running like grew larger by the day. I ran with the pace and grace of a giraffe falling off a cliff. Most days I barely even managed the ‘jog‘ I was previously so scornful of.
I ran 24 of the 30 days. I missed 2 days to sickness, 2 days when my wife was away and I had to mind the kids, and 2 days because I’m lazy. No excuses. The challenge quickly became less about running beautifully and more about showing the resolve to stumble out the door and do what I said I’d do. This was the reward, the doing. I’m lazy, ill-disciplined, easily distracted, and good at excuses but most days I ran anyway and this felt good. I didn’t feel good physically but I felt great mentally because I was making myself do something that I didn’t want to do. There were no Rocky moments, no spiritual awakenings, no heightened awarenesses of my surrounding but the doing, the completion, the post-shower sense of satisfaction was enough.
I’ll never take the piss out of a jogger again, I’ll cheer their efforts. I’ll cheer them all the more if they’re under-fit, over-weight and look ugly when they sweat.
Inspired by my interview with Bradley Garrett myself, Niall, and Jessie agreed that we would do some Urban Exploration. Urban exploration is a form of trespassing that generally involves exploring abandoned tunnels, buildings, or building sites. The principle is that you go somewhere you’re not meant to, explore the space, and leave no trace.
This was the most fascinating of the 3 challenges for me. I spoke about it to some of my friends and before long I was getting told stories about tunnels all over the city. It seemed everyone knew someone who knew someone who had been down a tunnel. I tried contacting various Urbex groups but they’re secretive by nature and none of them got back to me. I did manage to make contact with one guy who said he’d bring me with him on a pretty extreme exploration involving one of the stacks below but at the time it felt way beyond my pay grade and I politely refused by faking a heart attack.
After much discussion we decided to take a trip along a well documented but barely used piece of railway line that runs under the Phoenix Park in Dublin. I’ll leave it to Niall and Jessie to describe the experience in more detail but the creeping, climbing, jumping and tip-toeing involved was as enjoyable as I’d hoped even if I did find the experience slightly underwhelming. As soon as we’d finished I wanted more. More height (or depth), more trespassing, more danger. Do those towers look very tall to you?, watch this space!
The tattoo idea was pretty obvious and not as creative as our trio might have liked but you have to start somewhere so we started there. I have 3 tattoos already so it was an easy enough decision to get one but deciding what tattoo to get proved difficult.
My favourite quote is ‘The readiness is all‘ from Shakespeare’s Hamlet but I’m not a big fan of lettering tattoos so I wanted to get an image to go with the quote. I found the image I used on the web. As you can see below it’s of a boy running along, and jumping off, a pier. I’ve cliff jumped in Greece and other places and it’s always frightened the life out of me but I’m never as alive as the seconds of almost suspended animation before I hit the water. For me the jump is easy once I’ve made the decision. The action always follows the decision, much like Hamlet’s eventual decision to avenge his Father’s murder, it’s all about the readiness.
I got the tattoo here and the artist Greg was sound. It was painful enough but a bit of deep breathing helped preserve my thin veneer of masculinity. I also like the tattoo pain in a 50 Shades type of way but I do wish that my bicep was more impressive. There’s a fair bit of scarring still there in the pic above but this should heal in the next few days and I’m looking forward to seeing it properly then. Tattoos are highly addictive and I’d love to get a sleeve of sorts so I may be getting more as I complete each set of challenges, I’ll keep you posted on this.
Thanks for reading,
Myself, Niall, and Jessie recorded a podcast account of our first 30 Days and it will be up on Wednesday coming. Our next challenges involve learning a language, a full-moon sea swim, and 45 mins in a floatation tank. Get involved!