New Year’s Eve.
365 Days ago I made the initial steps on The Proper Grand Challenge and it almost seems like a lifetime away. After falling upon parkrun 7 months ago it has become a permanent fixture on my calendar so it seemed appropriate that I should be finishing my challenge at a parkrun less than 5 miles from my front door and in the park where I suffered my heart attack.
I really did not sleep that well. I think the mixture of excitement for finishing the challenge and the fear that something was still going to stop it happening. Luckily I made it out the house with all limbs intact and with my better half in tow to cheer me over the finish line.
The white coated paths had given way to the muddy trails but nothing was going to stop the one hundred and fifty strong field of runners. I started the Garmin and slowly made my way through the starting funnel and immediately felt the pull of my calves and my shins. I choose to focus on the music and They Might Be Giants helped to ease myself into a nice stride which I managed to maintain even as the runners in front opened up a sizeable gap giving me the feeling of running alone.
The hardest part of the course is the transition from the first to the second lap and leads through a short wooded path but the rain, the frost and the cold weather had made it muddy underfoot and I could feel it drawing on the front of my thighs.
As I was about to emerge from the trees I looked over to see Heather (my better half), there with camera in hand waiting to take a action snap, flanked on either side by my parents, who Heather had secretly invited to come along to cheer me on for the last few miles. I felt a swell of pride and a smile spread across my face as I threw a wave their way before heading through the gate for the final lap of the year.
Jimmy Eat World, Huey Lewis and the News and Toad the Wet Sprocket saw me round the furthest corner of the route and I headed around the pond before passing Heart Attack wall indicating a quarter of a mile left.
As the finish line came into view Neil Diamond’s Solitary Man burst through my earphones and I quickened my pace to finish the year strongly.
And that was it.
366 days of hard work, sore legs and 525 miles of pathways passing under my trainers and I had completed the Proper Grand Challenge. I have been lucky to have been able to find the time to run so much throughout the year. I have suffered a couple of illnesses, an injury or too and bouts of a lack of motivation but I have somehow managed to make it all the way to Lizard Point, the southernmost point in mainland England.
Luckily all the way my Brother has been keeping me on track by constantly asking for a progress report after each run throughout the year and has done the challenge along with me (he managed to pass the 525 miles mark in the second week of December). My parents have been asking how far down the country I have made it. Most importantly Heather has been supporting me all year, even though it has cut into time we could have been doing things together, and has been a amazing at kicking me out of the door into the cold on mornings I had not wanted to slip out from under the duvet.
After a year and 525 miles I think it is time for a few drinks to bring in the New Year and a much needed rest.
A New Year’s Day parkrun? Maybe my rest will have to start on January 2nd!