DURING dinner on Thursday my friend challenged me to take part in a duathlon.
‘Run, bike, run,’ he said. ‘You’ll love it.’
I wasn’t so sure, and certainly didn’t want to commit to anything. ‘I’ll think about it.’
‘Come on!’ Jon wouldn’t take no for an answer. ‘It’s only a 4K run, 20k bike ride, and 4k run.’
‘You could do the longer one if you wanted.’
‘No thanks,’ I said. ‘I’m fine with the short one.’
‘So it’s a yes then?’
‘No! It’s a maybe.’ I wasn’t going to be forced into anything. I promised to think about it
On Friday I did give it some thought, so much thought that I took my bike out of my parents’ garage, where I’d last left it around two years ago, gave it a dust, blew up the tyres and set off on a ride. Chris was running twelve miles and I decided to keep him company. His plan was to run at seven minute mile pace. I didn’t think I’d have a problem keeping up.
For the first few miles along the trail everything was fine. I tucked in behind Chris and started to enjoy myself. Then we reached the woods. Here it got harder. The terrain changed. I successfully navigated mud, rocks, sand and hills, but it was hard.
‘Cycling’s a bit harder than it looks.’ I was bent over the handlebars, gasping for breath.
Chris trotted past at his seven minute mile pace. ‘It’s definitely harder up the hills,’ he said. ‘Because you’ve got the weight of the bike.’
That’s quite a lot of weight. I’d also had a chocolate brownie the night before so was probably a few pounds heavier myself.
In the woods Chris got ahead and I hard to work hard to keep him in my sights. We rode and ran our way through Newmillerdam, Walton and Old Royston, doing a loop of Haw Park Wood along the way. The woods were tough and on one particularly nasty hill, I had to get off and push. The mud was like oil. My commuter bike’s tyres refused to grip. As I tried to pedal up, the bike slid backwards.
We had another good blast along the canal, which was great but I was all too aware of the heaviness of my legs. We’d done nine miles and were only a mile from my parents’ home. Chris needed to run twelve for his marathon training. ‘Shall we turn back towards Newmillerdam?’ He said. ‘That’ll add on a few more.’
‘I’m not adding anything on! I’m heading back.’
We agreed to go our separate ways. I’d have the kettle on by the time Chris returned. I was looking forward to a nice cup of tea and a biscuit with my mum and dad. I sped off.
‘Be careful on the road,’ Chris shouted after me.
Every time a car came up behind me, I panicked. I’d seen that crash at the Olympics and didn’t want anything like that to happen. I’m not cut out for dangerous sports. I turned off the main road and onto the bridlepath, which leads to my parents’ house. It was getting dark and there were a few hundred midges flying about. I kept my mouth closed and pedalled on. Up ahead there was a dog walker, but not just any woman and her dog. This was my friend, Noelynne with Barney.
I stopped to chat. I’d not seen her for ages so wanted to say hello. We chatted and we chatted some more. In the space of half an hour or so, we chatted about camping and caravans, Ben Nevis, cake, marriage, divorce, 40th birthdays, Chocolate cake, Flake cakes, the local vicar, work, retirement, pensions, chocolate mud cake, Bourbon biscuit cake, doing too much, the cost of care for the elderly, sport and fitness, and David Cameron.
By the time we said goodbye it was almost dark. I pedalled on, turning into my parents’ drive. They were just getting into their car. Mum had a look of panic about her. ‘Where’ve you been?’ She closed the car door. ‘Chris said you should have been back ages ago.’
‘I got chatting.’
‘I said you’d be chatting,’ Dad said. ‘Cancel the search party.’
I got off my bike feeling a bit wobbly. ‘Where’s Chris?’
‘He’s gone looking for you!’ Just as Mum said it, I heard my old car chugging up the hill with Chris at the wheel. He got out looking hot and sweaty from his twelve-mile run.
‘I was chatting,’ I said.
‘He looks exhausted,’ Mum said. ‘Come on.’ She waved us into the house, sat us down, made us a cup of tea.
‘Look at the state of you both!’ She said. ‘All that exercise and you look terrible. Shall I make you something quick to eat?’ And with that she set about making cheesy beans on toast. I’ve not had cheesy beans on toast for years, but it is quite possibly the best recovery food ever.
When we’d cleared our plates, Chris turned to me. ‘So are you doing a duathlon?’
I shook my head. ‘I don’t think I’m cut out for bike riding.’
‘No,’ Mum said. ‘Definitely not.’