Finding Failure

I am often told that I am too harsh, too brutal in terms of my opinion. Firstly, it is exactly that, an opinion and one that I am entitled to. Secondly, and most importantly, we have become a society of wimps, a society of people who cannot take criticism If I am too brutal, too honest about someone’s abilities, I am twice as brutal and honest about my own abilities. The thing that most people can’t deal with is the truth.

Like anyone I find failure hard to take, I think it is likely that you are going to find life very difficult. Even though emotionally I was a broken man, my physical prowess from the run still had me on top athletically. I was Rocky, I was Batman…hell, I was flipping Superman! I was taking on challenge after challenge, continuing to push my body. Maybe not akin to 2,500 miles of running over 50 days but I was certainly still pushing myself. I was channelling everything I had into my body, then came the JOGLE. A new challenge and a new discipline – a bike.

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The current record from John O’Groats to Land’s End stands at 41 hours, 4 minutes and 22 seconds. This route is 874 miles and the most direct road from the top of the UK to the bottom The record is set on a push bike. It wasn’t like I didn’t train, every day, 2-3 hours. Sacrificing everything to get on the bike, to get in the gym I gave the attempt everything I had.

It broke me in a way that even now hurts to write about. I was confident I could do it. I sat on the start line, like any other challenge completely convinced I had done the hard work in training. What I did not account for and where more research should have been done was the wind. What a little so-and-so a head wind is. When you run, a head wind is a pain but it has to be incredibly forceful to really put you off your stride, on the bike I felt like I was holding a sail above my head. The harder I pushed the slower I felt. I was in a standing attack to go downhill, powering the pedals in order to just keep moving.

I had never thought about what it would feel like to fail. It was awful, a strange empty feeling that I had never felt before nor do I ever want to feel again. Pushing out of John O’Groats I instantly knew how hard this challenge would be. The previous 48 hours had been a nightmare. Drivers I had lined up to help me pulled out at the last minute or couldn’t make the journey there. I headed to Scotland with my Dad and another driver Tom, a friend from school. What I put them through and what they saw happen I can’t imagine was pleasant. They saw me break, they watched me be destroyed by the weather and by the challenge I was attempting.

The strange thing about the JOGLE attempt is that I can’t remember specific details about it, I can’t remember what the towns were called or where the breath-taking landscapes were. When you conquer something the pain and suffering it took to get their pales into insignificance in contrast to the achievement, when you fail at something the bits you did wrong are magnified and eat at you forever.

We didn’t arrive into John O’Groats until late on the evening before the attempt, a windswept hotel with a small bar downstairs. We threw our bags in hungry and tired. We descended the stairs into a bar, one local man clutching a pint stood at the bar. No food was served after 9pm the bar staff

politely told us and we wouldn’t be able to get breakfast until after 7.30am. I needed to leave at 5am. A few Mars Bars and peanuts were bought to try and ease the hunger a little. We adjourned to our beds, already deflated.

As I lay in bed that night the wind battered the sky light above my head, rain pelted the windows, it was a long and very loud night. We headed to the start point that morning, the mini bus swayed in the wind. The type of day where high-sided vehicles are not allowed to cross bridges and parts of trees lay strewn across the road. The three of us stood at the sign post at John O’Groats to take photos, unable to talk properly as the wind stole our words. I sat on the bike. I had done the hard work. I gave it everything I had. I emptied every energy reserve in my body, it wasn’t enough.

My lasting memory is a picture of my sitting on the side of the road. It’s dark, the mini bus lights are on me, head down, I’m beaten. I look at the picture sometimes even now, it’s hard to look at but it also makes me remember that I have been down. I have been beaten, I have failed, but I have learnt from my failure.

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