Something to Write Home About 3

Jaw dropping. Thank you so very much to Zoe A, IM 70.3 Staffordshire legend and the first person to ever take a photo of me swimming in which I look like I actually know how to swim; James B, prolific hashtagger who’s job I’ll always be envious of because he works with Lego; and Nats R, one half of the team that smashed Oloppet swim run recently to finish ninth out of sixty women’s teams. The fundraising is currently north of two grand, over double what I ever planned on raising for the Maytree. I am honoured, just honoured. Than you all so much.

I think Sweden is my spirit animal. We arrived in Kalmar and it was raining, which made me feel instantly at home. They have giant pick’n’mix selections in even small local shops, and serve coffee with sweets instead of biscuits. Everyone (not everyone but enough to be noticeable) is slender and blond, and children walk around with hair braided like Vikings. Even the McDonalds staff are drop dead gorgeous – only there for the loo, honest. Unless I’ve got my conversion rate maths very wrong, houses here are actually affordable. I may never come back.

It’s a miracle that I’m here in the first place. As came up in a conversation between me and James (brother) this evening, I’d love to go and do the small triathlon that happens in the Cornish town where I grew up next year, as unfortunately it didn’t fit in my race schedule this year. Part of the reason I’d love to do it is because it’s run by my old PE teacher, Mr Hammond. I’d live to see the look on his face when one of his ex pupils, the lazy, dorky, arsey lesson-skipping smartass turned up with Agro and a mirrored twat visor helmet.

It wasn’t so much that I was poor at sports at school. I mean, I was pretty awful. It’s more that I couldn’t really be bothered. At primary school, I made an effort, but secondary school and being thrust from a year group of twenty to a year group of two hundred changed things somewhat. The standard jumped up and I didn’t cut it anymore, so I stopped engaging with it. This was kind of my default reaction to things as a teenager. I was still pretty sharp at most academic subjects, so it didn’t matter too much, until drugs happened and they went down the pan as well.

Running, in particular, I couldn’t stand. If I’d have known that I’d have a quick set of pins later in life, maybe I’d have smoked less. Who knows. Kids aren’t always predictable. There’s a lot of maybes, and coulds, and shoulds; as mentioned yesterday, I don’t think so much about these anymore.

All of that though to me heightens the sense of being a little bit of an imposter over here amid the grizzled Nordic veterans. It also heightens my sense of pride. Pride, in this case, that I’ve earned my place here. I earned it through hours of work, most of which had no witnesses that I could name. Unless we’re talking about the turbo. Sorry housemates.

I never had the grit to stick to any kind of long term plans before. I could never revise for exams, I just couldn’t commit to it. The only piece of uni coursework I didn’t write on the day it was due in was my dissertation, and that’s only because once my uni housemates had started coordinated library sessions to work on theirs, it would have become really boring to be at the house by myself.

Pritesh from Goodgym, before the social I spoke at a couple of weeks ago, totalled up the rough hours I’d spent in training for Ironman Kalmar. I can’t remember the exact figures, but it is hundreds. It may be close to a thousand, I’m not sure. Either way, it’s comfortable more than I’ve in any kind of hobby before. Not only that, but it’s been structured hours, planned and rational.

I’m not going to pretend that I’ve been the best student Coach Dan has ever had. There are periods that I faltered. I can’t help but feel that that’s to be expected over an eight month plan. But I can look back and say I’m happy with the work I did. I feel that I applied myself, and I worked had enough to earn the personal vindication I need to toe that start line on Saturday. Unlike when I was a gifted and talented kid who never worked in class, and to a degree in the early days of realising I could run good, this doesn’t feel like an undeserved talent that’s come out of the blue.

When I signed up for Kalmar, I set a target of going under twelve hours. That seemed progressive enough. Something in me, though, was gnawing, and I spoke to Coach Dan and we dropped it to eleven. Some more suspect decision making, some over-excited numbers game, and that became ten hours thirty minutes. I chose these numbers as pipe dreams, all of them at the time being more than I thought I was quite capable of, because I knew I had to push myself that way. I know I am motivated by people telling me I can’t do things, and that seems to now go for me telling me I can’t do things.

Three days out, that ten-thirty now looks achievable. Tough, but within my grasp. Who’d have thought the guy who was the primary school chess club (not a type, it was just me), the guy who refashioned himself as a goalkeeper in year ten for about a month just because no one else wanted to play there and it meant not getting picked last, the guy who would follow up kickboxing with a pint and a fag – who’d have thought he’d ever be good at any kind of sport; and no, I’ve never tried chess-boxing.

Who’d have thought.

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Also, part of the reason I’m doing this is to raise funds and awareness for The Maytree Respite Centre, a small charity in North London that provides support for people going through a suicidal crisis – so if you’d like to support my fundraising efforts, please click here. Thanks so much!

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