I silently panicked: I’m training for a marathon! Ale was the only answer

Okay, the pub was not the answer – the solution to my dilemma of not being able to walk was to cycle to Cornwall. So I did

The mighty sun bows down to the night sky upon a magnificent summer’s evening. With it, a rustic palette of mahoganies, golds, magentas which trickle into the reflection of the river Thames, scampering alongside us.

Most importantly though, I have my pub audience captivated.

“. . . honestly! I saw no illegal drugs when cycling . . . ”

That's right. Pale Ale in hand, chicken chest unfurled, I am this evening's leading cycling correspondent. Trevor MacDonald, George Alagiah, John Snow rolled into one pale Paddy, living in London. And now, for the crescendo . . . "When you're tested, they watch you pee into the cup."


Strong eyebrow raises coincide with this one-liner. The content of the quote means nothing. What I’m really stating is, “As your official cycling correspondent, I have the confidence to piss where I want, when I want. Bite me.”

“. . . . it’s nigh-on-impossible to get away with drugs in this day and age.”

Heads start to sway, not only for my toilet talents, but also towards my point of view about drugs in cycling – mission accomplished.

But just as I’m about to bow, a sudden jolt of panic reaches up and grabs me. This is a marathon training diary, not a pub crawl!

Why I am here?

Another one of those why questions: I ran to work that morning and the banjo string holding my left quad together ceased with its merry tune, juddering to a lethargic halt. No pangs or tears, just enough strain to enable me to walk like one leg is made of wood. Sitting in the office, I silently panicked: I’m training for a marathon!

I’m training for a three-hour marathon, for goodness sake!

I'm writing an Irish Times training diary about training for a three-hour marathon in three months, in Christ's name!

Ale was the only answer.

Two pints

Colleagues clapped, but I hobbled and fled. The pub is no place for a cycling correspondent. Midnight wolves howled, as I told myself outwardly I’d had but two pints. Stares and glares from innocent (and sober) commuters suggested otherwise. I desperately thought of a solution to my dilemma.

The answer came to me as the tube glided into Brixton station: cycle to Cornwall.

I know. A predictable next step when you can’t walk.

And it’s what I did. Howling wolves may have been imagined, but the promise I made to myself that night stayed true, and I cycled to Lizard Point in Cornwall.

Three days of 100-mile turns – through Glastonbury, Dartmoor and St Austell – got me to the most southerly point in the UK.

The banjo string snuggled up and rested, as the stabilising muscles surrounding my joints were strengthened through adventure. Running is a battering ram for joints: cycling provided a welcome cushion.

I'll finish The Eden Project Marathon, and we'll find out on October 14th whether this setback scuppers my three-hour target. Fundamentally, I'll be happy either way. It's not about succeeding in the challenge, but cherishing the journey it takes you on.

I'll still be sweating, swearing and training for that target; but on the very day, I'm going to savour and enjoy the moment. I love to push myself and this objective has provided the diving board to jump right in. I've lost weight, gained fitness, and an abundance of content to sicken the nation of Ireland with.

Challenges help me live life to the full. Life does not end if I don’t achieve them. Two weeks of training have passed, and prove nothing goes to plan. Then again, the Garden of Eden was sculpted to perfection, but it still ended up having a pesky snake in it.

Love living life.

I wonder where the next two weeks will take me?

Part 1: Three months for a three-hour marathon
Part 2: Sweat and suffering
Part 3: I silently panicked: I'm training for a marathon! Ale was the only answer
Part 4: 'I run like the back-end of a donkey in a school nativity play'