If you read my last post, you will know that I have recently been in withdrawl from running – mourning the loss of an addiction that took me from hatred of what I had become to one of the proudest moments in my life.
But in the last three years, running has slipped away from me. I’m still not sure why, but I can take a guess. Running is hard – that is part of the attraction. But running faster than you ever have before gets very, very hard the faster you go. Partly I think I knew what it would take for me to better my time in the marathon and simply didn’t fancy it. Plus Julie and I had launched a business and I wasn’t up for dedicated the same amount of time to my running as I had been to achieve my PB.
I thought about focusing on ultras, but they are not where my real passion is. I think that without real passion, it is impossible to excel at something. I don’t have the same love of running in the mountains that Julie does and so I am always happy to run with her in ultras, but I am not going to dedicate weekends to finding hills outside of London to train on. And if a long run turns from two and a half hours (which was what I was doing for the marathon) to six or seven hours, that hardly solves the time-challenge I have with Freestak taking priority.
So I have been drifting. Getting slowly tubbier and less fit. And at the same time, less happy.
What I need is a gift from the Gods
Maybe I have just been given exactly what I need. Not quite from the Gods, but it was certainly unexpected and from a source that I would never have expected; a bank. Saxobank in fact.
Some time ago I received an email about a cycling team project that Saxobank were organising, called Ride Like A Pro. It sounded amazing – a team of normal people riding and training together with a big target at the end of a programme that would last all summer.
With my increased focus on cycling, I thought something like this would be perfect. I also thought I had no chance of being part of the programme. But nothing ventured, nothing gained… I filled in the application form.
Two weeks ago, I was contacted by the person behind SaxoSports Ride Like A Pro to be invited to join the team of 50. First step would be to come to Saxobank offices in Canary Wharf, the financial district in the east of London. That is how I found myself outside a vast glass and steel building, on a cold blustery evening wondering if this was all a cruel joke or a big mistake.
I was welcomed into the building and met some of the other riders in the team. They were all lovely – some had been part of the programme last year, but many were first-timers like me. Then Matteo Cassina – the man at Saxobank behind the Ride Like A Pro concept – introduced the programme to us. Oh and we were give all our team kit. The idea is really quite simple; we will get together once a month between now and September to ride as a group and learn from a team of coaches and experts. We will also start meeting up for rides with other team members when we can. We can have subsidised training and analysis. And at the end of the summer, we go to Spain to ride a stage of the Vuelta a España with Alberton Contador, whose foundation we are supporting through this programme.
I have found the next thing… or it found me.
So like a gift from the Gods, I have been presented with the thing that I was looking for. A bit of structure. A target to aim for. A group of people to be responsible to. And perhaps most importantly, a way to test myself that doesn’t allow comparison with things I have done before.
I have been out riding more and more since getting the call, already excited about the chance to go from a very low base to Riding Like A Pro. Obviously I’m incredibly grateful to the Saxobank team for inviting me to join. I already have a feeling this could be the start of something. Obviously, running will always be my first love. But when the Gods deliver a chance like this, it would be foolish to not fall in love all over again, right?