I had actually forgotten how inspiring this time of year can be. There’s a quiet anticipation about January because it brings with it creeping daylight at around two minutes a day, morning and night. And it’s relentless. But see the best bit about this Lighter Shade Of Pale, it’s the fact that you get to live it four months in a row.
It works like this: Sunset on January 1st in Glasgow is just before 4 o’clock. That means no matter what happens, you’re getting out of work and onto the bike in the dark. And forget sunrise, that’s irrelevant.
Come February, sunset has moved forward to just before 5 o’clock and suddenly you can start playing games such as “how far will I get up the road before I can’t see the speedo on an unlit road”. And… “how much of a difference does it make when it’s not raining”? Daft stuff, I know, but these are the things that keep you focussed. Believe me, there’s nothing quite so depressing as getting a couple of nice days and a positive outlook, then a rank rotten day when the pishing rain and low cloud is enough to convince you that it’s November all over again. But basically February is a case of same traffic, alternate sequence, just a different ambience. Sunrise? Still utterly irrelevant on a five thirty start.
How I’m looking forward to March! For a start, I’ll only have 4 years left to retirement. And then there’s a cup final to look forward to after my beloved Inverness Caley Thistle took a leaf out of the LifeCycle book and vowed “never, ever give up, even when you’re 9 men against 12”. But by March, I’ll be home in the daylight, and just for good measure, I’ll be getting into work in twilight. See what I mean when I said you get to live this four months in a row? That’s three already… By the end of March, Sunrise has moved back to 6am which means I’ll be leaving the house when it’s not pitch black. Now that will be a real novelty. I have totally forgotten how that feels. Was that October?
But then.. Boom… the clocks go forward…
And it’s back to getting up in the dark. 5 days of morning light before heading back to square one.
I can guarantee that the whole of April will be spent living January in reverse. For creeping evening light, read creeping mornings. And mist. Experience tells me that a morning fog on a stiff easterly breeze in the springtime can often feel as cold as a sharp frost on a January morning. Baltic.
But it’s inspiring. The light is every bit as inspiring as the darkness is challenging in Autumn. These are the things that define every single day on LifeCycle. It’s about respecting the event, respecting yourself, and respecting all of those people who have faith in what this project is all about.
Apart from pondering the end of winter (better whisper that one quietly!) the other thing that has dominated my thoughts of late has been The Highland March. I love The Highland March like I love no other event. I love the people who do it, I love the people who support it, and I love the fact that The Highland March is ours: it belongs to Inverness Caledonian Thistle. And the fact that we started it to celebrate my birthday. To date there have been 11 Highland Marches and I’ve been on them all, ten as a walker and one, last year, as support driver to my ICT heroes.
I’d always intended HM12 as a one off comeback simply because it’s World Cup year and that means that there’s always a midweek fixture in the final week of the season, and the holy grail of HM challenges: a shortie march from Wednesday to the following weekend. It’s the stuff of mad dawgs and Englishmen. I was plain old Interthenet until I walked from Inverness to Dunfermline in 48 hours by taking a short route over the hills in 2006: in the dark.
So I hope you can understand that HM12 has always held a fascination and a challenge for me, the like of which won’t come around again until the Euros in 2016. A short HM is the ultimate in challenging your body, your mind and your very desire to see the job done.
But that brings me nicely to why I won’t be there: well, not at the start anyway, nor possibly at the end (but there are 48 hours in the middle for me to play with). For 30 years, on and off, I’ve been coaching middle and long distance runners. They’re like buses: you don’t get one for ages then two or three come along at the same time. I love distance running, always have done, and I particularly like the challenge of overcoming fatigue, negative thoughts and the weather. Maybe that was me doing LIfeCycle in a previous existence. But in 2007, an athlete that I was coaching had a major event on the second day of HM5 and I chose to do the HM, walking non-stop from Inverness to Fort William as it turned out as my protégé ran lifetime best, a time she had craved for 15 years. I may have engineered it, but I missed it.
Well now, seven years on from that mistake, lightning is not going to strike twice. I currently have two athletes in my care, and both are racing in Glasgow on the day that the HM finishes. One of them is also racing on the day that it starts. And when I see first hand the effort that someone is prepared to put in, to get where they want to be, then I know I want to be there to see the result. It’s about mutual respect.
There is something magical about sport. But there’s something even more magical about someone who possesses the determination and the desire to go where not only where they’ve never been before, but where they never had the slightest inkling that they could get to. And that person is not me.