Sunday, 14 December 2014

Challenge 12: The Santa Dash and some musings on a fairly spectacular year.

Today I completed the final of twelve challenges this year. As you can see from the photos above, this challenge involved dressing up as Santa Clause and running around Princes Street Gardens. A perfectly fitting end to a bizarre year, I think. There isn't too much to write about this particular challenge as I just ran around the gardens five times - not that exciting - so the photographs should suffice and instead now I'll just waffle a little about this whole year instead.

The idea for this year of challenges wasn't entirely born on the 1st of January 2014, rather it had been buzzing around in my brain for quite a while in some form or another. I wanted 2014 to be a year of achievement, of getting out there and doing things I'd never done before and of trying to push beyond my self imposed limits. I like to collect experiences and this year was primarily a way to force myself into doing that, whilst also raising money for two charities which were very close to my heart.

It was a difficult task starting this blog. Each post I published made me cringe a little. I re-read posts later and chided myself for small mistakes, for prose which sounded cheesy or melodramatic or for jokes which in hindsight, weren't that funny. There were many occasions that I considered just calling it a day but then I would remind myself that the whole point of this year was to push myself to continue at something even when I felt like I might not be good enough.

So I continued to write. I also kept on running, cycling and swimming when I felt like I'd rather throw in the towel. I made my way down from heights even when my brain was screaming at me not to take the step off of the comfortable, firm ground. I swallowed my pride and begged, with varying degrees of success, for raffle items. I dragged myself up, not one but two, mountains. I withstood multiple electric shocks to my arse. I half-arsed it a lot of the time and over-compensated on the carbs (what's new?) but I had a bloody brilliant time and I would do it all over again in a heart beat.

Throughout all of this, I've learned a couple of things along the way which I'm going to take it upon myself to share with you. You can thank me later.

1) I am a failure and am not even that bothered about it.

I might have completed a Triathlon, Tough Mudder and a climb up the UK's highest mountain but I'm no athlete, that much is abundantly clear.

The wind was well and truly taken out of my sails when I rocked up for a Duathlon in February only to fail drastically and have to be chummed round the course by the sweeper. Just for the avoidance of doubt, the sweeper is the person who is supposed to make sure that the course is clear before everyone goes home. For the first half an hour I thought she was just some pathetic case who was even worse at mountain biking than me. I was mistaken. Actually, she was looking after me and making sure that I got home before the darkness descended. I didn't even manage to finish the 10km run which was the second part of the challenge, so all considered, it was a pretty spectacular failure.

You know what though? It was one of the most popular blog posts, proving conclusively that failure is more endearing. This is quite a good result for me considering that I came 21st out of 22 people in a kayaking challenge and only narrowly managed to beat a 73 year old woman in the Triathlon. I'm not a failure, I'm endearing.

What's more, failing miserably at the Duathlon didn't deter me from turning up to take my chances at a Triathlon in May, which was even more daunting for me because of the swimming aspect. The point I'm trying to make is, don't let a little failure get in your way. Dust yourself off (or in my case shower aggressively for two weeks to get rid of the mud), get back at it again and learn from your mistakes. Which leads me quite neatly on to my second lesson.

2) Failing to prepare is preparing to fail (but I don't worry too much about it anyway)

Preparation is not my strong suit but I learned my lesson the hard way in the Duathlon and so I made at least a small, half-arsed attempt to train for the other challenges. For example, I had swam at least four times before I turned up to complete a Triathlon and I even cycled the route in advance. Fair enough this was at the prompting of a friend but at least I did it.

So, having told you that preparation is key, I'm now going to completely contradict my advice and tell you that it isn't all THAT important. I basically half-arsed the training for everything this year. I really, really meant to train hard but, well, life just got in the way and also I got really invested in Gossip Girl and the Vampire Diaries so exercise just wasn't at the top of my list of priorities.

Guess what? It was all fine. I didn't run the full twelve miles for Tough Mudder but I still completed it. I didn't crack the 2 hour barrier for the Triathlon (those damn transitions!!) and I most certainly didn't gain the six pack that I expected from such an activity filled year (damn those carbohydrates!!) but I had a wonderful experience at every challenge. My, admittedly rather long-winded, point is this:

If you wait for the perfect moment when all is safe and assured, it may never arrive. Mountains will not be climbed, races won or lasting happiness achieved. - Maurice Chevalier

If you have a half minded inclination to do something then stop making excuses and just do it. The number of tomorrows we have are not infinite and our yesterdays rack up pretty quickly. I want my yesterdays to be full of stories, fond memories and experiences and this year I went out there and made that happen.

3) The journey is much improved when friends come along for the ride.

Apparently, I'm not the only person around here who has lost their marbles. In fact, it was surprisingly easy to rope a few friends in for the ride. This post is already very long and rambling so I'll save the personal thank you's for a separate post but just quickly - a huge thank you to everyone who has been involved in this year. The challenges in which you were involved were my favourite by a mile and I'm so glad to call you all my friends.

4) Talking to strangers on the internet totally isn't as weird as I thought it would be.

I had a bit of a nervous relationship with the 'Internet' pre blogging. This was mainly thanks to snarky commenters on The Libertines fan page back in the day who totally shot me down in flames for a random comment I made. Since then I avoided all sort of social media where I would encounter people that I had never met in real life. I was totally missing out.

This year I've discovered a whole world of smart, funny people on the internet through whom I experience parts of the world I've never been to, drool over food I'll never be arsed to make myself, laugh at a humour which is similar to mine, chat for hours about books and generally just share stories with like-minded people. To those of you whom I've spoken to on Twitter or who comment on my blog - thank you! You have made an internet-phobe a little less daunted.

5) My body does not deserve to be berated.

I've not always been particularly kind to myself but as the days draw in towards the next new year, I feel differently about that. I've spent a year looking at and sharing photographs of myself with little make up on, with my hair scraped back (which is my pet hate) and wearing exercise gear which doesn't flatter or leave much to the imagination. I even ran about outside in a swimming costume with built in shorts for f**k's sake! In not one of those videos or photographs did I think that I looked terrible, or fat, or any multitude of the usual negative thoughts.

Watching myself completing challenges I never thought possible was like watching a completely different person. In disassociating from myself in that way, my thoughts about the person in the photograph or video mirrored the way that I tend to think of other people, which is to say, that those thoughts were much kinder than the ones I normally give to myself.

I feel bad for ever berating my poor legs, the same ones which carried me faithfully up mountains, kicked, pedalled and ran their way through a Triathlon and which trembled only slightly when looking down at the drops below them. I felt impressed by arms which pulled me over obstacles and pushed me up from the ground after I'd crawled my way through mud and electric wires.

Despite a year of physical challenges, my body is no different to how it was at the start of the year but I like it infinitely more anyway. It is strong. It has surprised me with it's strength and I am grateful for everything that it is.

6) Life is all about the adventures.

If I will take anything away from this year it is this final point. The adventurous attitude that was sparked with signing myself up to complete twelve challenges has changed something in me. I found myself saying yes to more adventures outside of that including agreeing to climb an additional mountain, taking part in the colour me rad race and going along to blogger events where I didn't know anyone.

This year of challenges is over, but the adventures are not coming to an end. I'll be out there looking for them always.


  1. I only stumbled on your blog a couple of weeks ago but really enjoyed all the posts - it's really inspired me to become a bit more active in 2015!

    1. Hi Sara,

      Thank you for your lovely comment. It's really nice to get some feedback on the posts and I'm glad you enjoyed them!

      Glad you're inspired to get a bit more active - the trick is to find really random and enjoyable things to do then it's not so much of a struggle. The blog probably makes me look like I'm much more active than I actually am - there isn't too much training around the events haha.