The Spirit Of Walfrid

One of these days I’m going to murder a trip into work, or perhaps even the trip home. With every passing day, I’m starting to feel more like I used to, albeit that my legs are sore and heavy most of the time. This has been such a hard, hard week.

Because Monday was Easter Monday, I got an extra day off and didn’t hit the road until Tuesday. It should have been a doddle but it wasn’t. It was on Monday that I first became aware of a tickly throat and as the week has worn on, there have been times when I’ve felt as weak as a kitten. I can’t even start to describe how tough every ride has been: aching knees and screaming quads have made for a very unpleasant ninety minutes twice a day. And as if being on the bike wasn’t hellish enough, being off it has been worse: you know that awful feeling when you’re so tired that you could quite literally fall over: at your desk! That’s been me for most of the day, every day this week. There’s only so much coffee a man can take but I’ve had to resort to deluxe measures in order to get any work done. The last time I felt as knackered as this was in the micro napping hours of Highland Bike in May of last year. And then there’s the cough: a dry barking beast that tastes of blood in the back of your throat and leaves your chest feeling sore. But against the backdrop of that handicap, I’ve soldiered on, cut the speed back and just turned the wheels. Under these circumstances, every mile is a friggin bonus.

On happier ground, it seems like an eternity since I last had a Cake Day. In fact it was back in December when I bagged a special trip into work on Hogmanay to take stuff in ahead of the new working year. That’s over three months ago! I’d become so accustomed to knocking off a thousand miles every five weeks that it’s come as a bit of a depressive shock to take more than double that, and some. But Monday is set fair to redress the balance and finally… finally, I’ll be through 13,000 and starting to dream of four digits remaining. On the 13th too! All being well, 14,000 should arrive in late May then it’ll be a race against the clock to conquer 15,000 before we go on holiday in June. It’s doable but it’s asking a lot: just as it was to scale 10,000 before Inverness played at Celtic Park on November 1st. Just like I did back then, I’m going for it…

But tiredness apart, today is a very special day: it’s Walfrid Day. People are joining the LifeCycle support team all the time so let me briefly re-tell the story. It’s the story of how an Inverness Caley Thistle supporter came to be accepted by the Celtic fraternity because he embraced the ethos of their charitable football club. Celtic was formed in 1888 by a priest, Andrew Kerins, aka Brother Walfrid, for the benefit of the underprivileged Irish immigrants in the deprived east end of Glasgow. If you roll the clock forward 127 years, the same charitable status that existed back then is alive and well today. Indeed it’s positively thriving, from supporting foodbanks on match days to bucket collections for special events. If there’s a cause worth supporting and worth fighting for, Celtic supporters are probably doing it right now. Charity isn’t an optional extra at Celtic: it’s in your shopping basket for free.

One of those charitable guys is Wullie Brown. Wullie and I first crossed tracks about two years ago, and both being software developers, we’ve shared many an idea since. It was Wullie who first suggested that I write a piece about LifeCycle for The Celtic Network. It was Wullie who got that piece lifted and re-published on Celtic Quick News. And it was Wullie who singlehandedly raised the profile of what I’ve been trying to do, to a whole new audience. So it should have come as no surprise when I got a message from him a couple of months ago bouncing around an idea for a Good Causes music album featuring Celtic minded bands. TCN promotes five good causes: The Invisibles, The Kano Foundation, The Good Child Foundation, Sean’s Trust and LifeCycleForNeuroblastoma. The good causes album was released today, priced at £6, and a pound from each download goes to each of the five good causes. The other pound goes to cover admin and production costs. It’s available as both a download and a CD from The Celtic Network Good Causes site.

I don’t know how successful the album is going to be. I just know it’s a fantastic idea and deserves to be a huge hit. Being an eternal optimist, I’d like to think it will sell 10,000 copies and fill the coffers of each good cause, including this one, by ten grand. When I started 21 months ago, I set my stall out to raise a hundred grand and I really didn’t envisage dreaming about a significant chunk of that coming courtesy of football supporters from another club. But Celtic supporters claim to be the best in the world so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. And as if to heap irony upon irony, Inverness play Celtic on each of the next two weekends, first of all up the road in the Highlands tomorrow, then next week at Hampden Park in the Scottish Cup semi final. My tickets for the Caley end arrived yesterday. I’ll probably have as many friends in the Celtic support as I will in the Inverness end, such has been the warmth towards my adventure and if I may borrow that famous Kevin Keegan line “I’d love it, absolutely love it if we beat them…”. The icing on the cake would be if I can arrange ‘a wee social gathering’ for my supporters in Glasgow next Saturday, the day before the game.

Going back to the mileage game for a minute, I’ve now been back on the bike for three weeks. In the first of those weeks, I clocked up more miles than in the corresponding week last year. In the second, that was last week, I repeated that feat and chalked up my first double ton of the year. And this week, despite only being a four day week as opposed to a fiver last year, has done the hat trick: 163, 208 and 187 in just 14 LifeCycling days since I said to myself “right, enough of that resting up malarkey, let’s get this show back on the road”. The op scar is less sore now than at any time since I came back, so much so that I’m now finding myself focussed on other things rather than bursting the net. It’s a good sign.

Now, I can’t let this week go by without making mention of something I spotted on Facebook. I see a lot of good stuff almost every day because in the main, my circle is made up of bright people who have good ideas and a hellish dry sense of humour. But one post blew me away this week: it inspired me way beyond anything I’ve read before, and in the context of where it came from, it’s just off the scale in terms of relevance and heartfelt beauty. This is what Leona Knox, Oscar’s mum, said after the Easter holiday: “I have an unwavering belief in what the NCCA is trying to achieve for families devastated by neuroblastoma. We are helping to support families facing this diagnosis right now, as well as investing in research to unlock more effective treatments for the future. I’m proud to be part of helping to make these goals a reality”. Leona, I am proud to have chosen such a wonderful cause for this challenge, and it was down to people like Stephen and yourself back in 2013 that I did so: oh, and those pesky Celtic supporters and their unwavering support of a good cause. I’m not sure what makes me prouder: the fact that I’ve got as far as I have in such a short time, or the fact that I’ve got to know so many good people from another football culture. Either way, I love it, absolutely love it. Yes it’s hard, but people like you make it so much more bearable.

But let’s finish off today by celebrating all of the hard work that so many people have put in to make a difference to people’s lives. I may be an outsider but I get what it’s about…

The Spirit Of Walfrid.

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