Where to begin?

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

The problem with such a large undertaking is that there seems to be no end to the number of different ways in which I could approach it. So spoilt am I for choice that there is a chance I could sit here forever trying to decide how best to begin and never actually do anything. Deadlines are what I need; otherwise the size of the task could get seriously unmanageable. I have no doubt that C Northcote Parkinson's famous assertion will hold true and that the work to be done will expand to fill the time allotted to it, but I need to get a move on all the same. My first deadline is the end of this piece - by then, I will have decided which event to tackle first.

I probably flatter myself to think that there are several events on the list for which I am already adequately skilled and adequately physically fit – perhaps a more accurate way to look at the situation is that there are several events on the list at which no amount of extra training, practice or physical conditioning will make me any better than I am now. I may not be fit enough or skilled enough to play international football (despite only being Northern Irish), but I can kick a ball and run around for 90 minutes.

Some events cry out immediately and obviously for a certain degree of physical conditioning – I can run along a road, but that doesn’t mean I could go out and do it for a little over 26 miles tomorrow morning. In all honesty, the 5,000 metres might present a fitness problem at the moment. Alright, so would the 1,500. And the 800 might be a bit tighter than I’d like to admit.

Other events require skills I do not yet have – the favourite question arises again; how does one learn to pole vault without breaking one’s neck in the process? For these events, I will need to find help in terms of instruction and (on occasion) in terms of finding and gaining access to the necessary equipment.

There are still other events that require both new skills and a much higher level of fitness than the one I currently lie about enjoying. I’m writing this from an apartment in the Canary Islands where I am on holiday at the moment. On our first day here, I made a rather alarming discovery when I leapt into the swimming pool. I am nowhere near as good a swimmer as I tend to give myself credit for.

I have become (if I was ever anything else) a recreational swimmer of the worst kind – I propel myself through the water using a strange combination of all four strokes, and only ever as far as is required to reach whatever inflatable item I have just failed to catch. It’s a sort of five metre individual medley combined with a brief moment of water polo before I forget to kick my legs and end up getting water up my nose. In short, when it comes to the swimming events, I am going to need some lessons as well as some fitness training.

Some events I perceive as having other accessibility barriers in addition to a lack of talent or physical prowess on my part, barriers that I expect may get lower the further into this quest I find myself. For instance, I suspect that it may be easier to convince someone to lend me a sufficiently talented horse (and teach me how to ride it) if this whole venture has already gained some momentum or the attention of the media.

Likewise, I anticipate a degree of trouble getting into sailing from a standing start. Both of these sports like to argue that their respective barriers to entry are not nearly as insurmountable as most people consider them to be – I hope to give them the chance to prove that.

There comes a time for talking and writing to stop and action to begin. That time is now. Well no, that time is next week really, but the decision about where to start has been made. I will make my first assault on the badminton events, of which there are three – singles, doubles and mixed doubles. I played badminton through most of last winter and in decent enough company that I now have at least a working knowledge of the rules. And I know how to get to the leisure centre.

One other important piece of news (in fact, really the most important piece of news) - having approached them to see if they minded me fundraising in this manner on their behalf, I’m delighted to report that the Sobell House Hospice Charity have given me the thumbs up. In time, I’ll no doubt write in greater detail about why I want to raise money for them, but in the meantime, if you want to learn more about what they do, you can click on their name above to see their website.