2024 will be my first year without a major Thighs of Steel cycle-raising adventure since 2017.
- 2023 & 2022: Glasgow to Athens co-organiser
- 2021: Spell It Out record-breaking co-organiser
- 2020: Around The World lockdown cyclist
- 2019: London to Athens core team facilitator
- 2018: Ljubljana to Sofia cyclist
- 2017: Bugger all
2017, it’s fair to say, was not a great year. To be honest, I felt like shit most of the time — it was (famously) the year of raging Man Sloth Mode.
For about a year, I did nothing…
Thighs of Steel, it’s fair to say, saved my life. At least, it saved the purposeful part of me that needed something to do, rather than simply something to write (although it also helped with a heck of a lot of that).
The last three years in particular have been dominated, all year round, by organising and then riding Europe’s longest charity bike ride. Ergo: 2024 has a whole lot of gaping hole where Thighs of Steel once was.
As well as crapping my pants about not having anything to do, I’m also choosing to see this hole as a gaping abundance of opportunity.
Quite apart from all those Thighs of Steel bullet points, my life has changed a lot since 2017. I think this is best illustrated with a couple of photos, taken six years and about six miles apart:
In other words: six years is a lot of lifetime and there is no reason to suspect that the next six years will be anything other than, well, full. Almost certainly fuller of life than any previous six year segment in the soap opera Dave (now in its forty-second season) because (and here’s the kicker) that’s how life works, kiddo.
If you thought childhood was wasted on the young, just wait until you try adulthood. It’s amazing. All the dreams of youth, but with the utterly misplaced power to make those dreams a reality (or at least some updated adult version).
This time we have on earth is damnful of promise. If an hour when you were a kid was worth tuppence (who gets bored on their summer holidays? Kids, that’s who), then an hour today is worth The Bank of England.
That’s why it seems like our six year segments only get richer and richer as we age: we make our time count double and double again.
Time might seem to pass more quickly now we’re older and, sure, part of that is because our brains are slowly calcifying, but it’s also because we compress more meaning into our hours.
Now I’m an adult, I’ll be devilled black and blue if I’m going to spend a second longer than I have to on anything that I don’t see as majorly meaningful, even if (especially if) that means making my own meaning.
Everything I’ve done and almost every word I’ve written since 2017 has edged me closer to an expansively dense existence that prioritises the healing power of jolly well getting outside, and sharing those connective encounters and experiences with other people, both in the flesh and on the page (hello you 👋).
Thighs of Steel has been a huge chunk of that story so far, but it’s by no means the end. More like the prologue.
This year, I have signed up to study for something called The Certificate in Advanced Wilderness Therapeutic Approaches.
Big scary title.
But, if my experience is anything to go by (not to mention the experience of the hundreds of people I’ve guided in the outdoors in the past six years), then the blockbuster slamdunk approach of all our therapeutic encounters with wild nature is this: healing by being.
Unlike the pell-mell of what seems like everything else, nature is there.
Nature is there. Always there*. Simply there. Abundantly there. Quietly there. Raucously there. So go: go! See for yourself, feel for yourself. Slow down to tree time. Stretch yourself over aeons. Be outside forever. Lean your forehead against a tree and breathe in the oxygen that this living tree breathes out. Heal by being.
* Not necessarily always there if we fuck it up too much. Still: by and large, on our puny human timescales, it seems to be always there. Even if ‘it’ is a weed and ‘there’ are the cracks in the crumbling concrete of a carbon junky civilisation. 😘