I really, really need to address my Tank Girl fixation.
I'm not one of those people who have been racing since Jesus played football for Israel.
Despite being of an age when school P.E. was most definitely competitive, seemed to occur twice a day and with the exception of swimming, was always outdoors, I dodged extra curricular competitive sports like a champ. Instead my time was spent terrorising the great outdoors with my mates, equipped with pen knives, catapults and fishing tackle, all of which seemed designed to inflict maximum damage to the user and everyone around him. Fishing hooks stuck in fingers and, on one memorable occasion an ear, catapulted stones bouncing off each others' heads and during one famous catapult battle, a pair of teenage testicles (sorry Neil), every spare hour was another step towards tetanus, blindness and infertility.
My teenage years brought big hair and an obsession with all things indie. Sport was about as far from indie as you could get, so I stuck to boots, beer and bands.
It all caught up with me in my twenties. My old man had been a runner since quitting smoking when I was young. His eighties' high-cut running shorts, slashed up the sides as far as the waistband to maximise exposure of pasty English thigh would bring taunting howls of laughter from the family as he slunk out of the door. But then I found myself living in Holland, overweight and loving all the things that life in Holland could provide. When you are skint, in your twenties, and have just been humiliated by some old duffer gliding past you in the swimming pool, running seems to be just the ticket. At least it was once I realised that this was definitely not an activity for boots.
I did my first event at the age of 24. Me and my Dad had a rare moment of father-son bonding and ran Tough Guy together. For the uninitiated, Tough Guy is a combination of a cross country run and near-death experience, as a day in Wolverhampton tends to be. Then from the mid nineties onward it was a whirl of racing, training, racing, getting injured, but still racing...As runners living in a city, we could often race three times in a week, and have raced twice in a day, which is a never to be repeated experience.
Tough Guy Jesus Warriors. I shit you not.
I've often fallen in and out of love with different forms of racing. Our last block of half-marathon training was so goddam tough that we swore never to repeat it, despite awesome PBs and the ability to eat 3000 calories a day. XC mountain biking has let me down more times than the England football team and despite still loving riding my bike, I just can't face a winter of training for events that I feel, at best, ambivalent about.
But I still love training, and love the pain of a good workout, so step forward the Big Guns Challenge. This was inspired by a mate of ours, who was also in his forties when he toddled off to do his duty in Afghanistan. He vowed that while there he would devote all his time not spent marching and dodging bullets, in pursuit of a long coveted set of guns to be proud of. As a long term endurance nut, this really resonated with me. I am clearly more suited to sports involving skinny hips and Tyrannosaurus Rex arms, but neither are any use when it comes to pulling chicks or looking buff on the beach.
The rules of the challenge are simple. The participants are myself, Maddie and our mate Stocker, the illegitimate offspring of the Tetley Tea Folk and Tom Cruise. We have all measured our pre-training upper arms, once we found a measuring tape in small enough increments. We won't see each other until next May at the first Tough Mudder event of 2017, and with great ceremony the tape measure will come out again. The one with the greatest percentage growth on their upper arm circumference will win, and bingo wings are not allowed. The winner will receive a Wetherspoons voucher equivalent to the percentage that they have increased, and in the past month I have gained enough for an unlimited coffee and a danish.
We all know that Maddie will win as she has got the DNA and shoulders of a scaffolder, but if I manage to get a body that doesn't need to be permanently covered by a t-shirt I'll be stoked.