One Wednesday morning in September I set out to squeeze a short, hilly run into my schedule before the start of the Tour of Britain on the top of town and the arrival of my mother for a day of family genealogy research.
I ran up one of my usual steep climbs, just missed being taken out by a green cyclist crossing my path, waved back at a couple of Italian Job-style drivers in recognisably liveried vehicles, overheard a conversation between a workman and another green cyclist about finding the best place to go for a pee, and as I rounded the crest of the first hill, all of a sudden my route was blocked by a swarm of people with cameras in hand, one with a microphone, and in between the tide of heads, I spotted a lone cyclist, head bent down, signing one thing after another with his lookout giving instructions.
I couldn’t help but feel sorry for him.
Pre-race, which was imminent, most folk want to get their heads in the game, mentally focus, allay the nerves with banter amongst other racers. Here was somebody handing out those pre-race moments to folk who don’t engage so much as take a lump of precious time for themselves, and it’s they who benefit the most, surely.
Personally, I couldn’t get much closer than this. Perhaps like them, I simply wanted to give him a hug, or just say “Enjoy the day in Wales”. But I also wanted to say that to other riders. The difference was, I didn’t know their names, so I didn’t know how to connect with them.
Paradoxically, Wiggins probably didn’t know anyone there either, so how does he connect for himself?
It is a peculiar exchange.
I’d really like to know, what does it mean to engage with the public on this level, right before one of the toughest rides of the tour, on a very hot day?
As soon as the cyclists had left, I carried on running uphill to one of my favourite castle wall vantage points, and what a beautiful day it was to be outdoors in Denbigh.
If I can get out to run, I know I’m in a good place.
Getting out to run is the key. Some days I wear my running kit all day, but I don’t leave the house.
Knowing something is good for you isn’t the same as doing something that is good for you.
A year ago, I was starting to retrain, it was painful, my heart was weary from the need of moral support.
I kept wishing that someone would come by and tell me: “we’re going for a run, whatever you can do and that’s OK, because the best medicine is outside, and every healthcare professional agrees, even the government agrees, so as your mental wellbeing buddy, the only thing you need is to be outside, and to be moving, and I am going to be with you until you’re strong enough to go it alone.”
And I probably would have put up a resistance, but would have also been relieved that throwing pills at me was not the only thing a society can do to help me come back to life.
Because pills do not cure everything.
And you can’t sell fresh air and exercise.