Let’s face it, in one way or another, 2016 has not always been a great year.
Even if we put politics to one side*, it’s been pretty bad. 2016 has been a year of loss for both sound and vision: with the final curtain calling for such talents as David Bowie, Alan Rickman, Caroline Aherne and now most recently, to trump it all… Leonard Cohen.
So, what we need is a heart-warmingly good news story. And to my amazement, and that of anyone who knows me, that’s where I come in. Well, not me exactly. Mostly my wife.
Our story is set in Mexico, but it begins in Ireland.
My wife is Irish. Really Irish – not in the “my great great grandmother once drank a pint of Guinness” way. She won’t mind me saying that her abiding memories of school were being taught French by Irish nuns who had no idea where France actually was, and a hatred of taking part in outdoor sport. You see, it rains a lot in Ireland. That’s why it’s green.
That dislike of all things sport continued for the first 10 years or so that we were together. Then one day, egged on by a friend with similar sporting prowess, she decided she’d pack up the fags and take part in a Race for Life: the 5k women only run that raises money for breast cancer research. Obviously, the drinking continued. (There are limits.)
Run a minute, walk a minute may sound easy enough, but a minute is a long time when your last serious activity was 20 years ago in a rain swept playing field in Cork. However, the 6-week training schedule was religiously adhered to (so those nuns did do some good) and gradually the running time built up to a whole half hour. Long enough to get round 5k alongside the throngs of other pink-clad runners. This was quite an achievement and to my amazement it was repeated the year after. Then the following year, spurred on by a desire to enjoy an arduous trekking holiday we’d booked to Macchu Picchu, the training got a bit more serious as we both joined a local group who ran and exercised all year round in one of Croydon’s many leafy parks.
Now fast forward 12 years to September 2016 and we’re in Cozumel, a small island off the coast of Mexico. It’s the Triathlon World Championships and my wife is representing Ireland in her age group. Yes, you read that correctly. Through sheer hard work and determination, the move from couch (Irish) potato to international athlete was complete. And there was even a like minds logo sported on the tri-suit!
The race itself was a battle, not just against the other competitors but also the conditions. The weather was brutal: 33C heat and 92% humidity. You can replicate the experience at your local gym by simply using a treadmill. Just remember to put the treadmill inside the sauna first.
A place in the world’s top 50 was achieved. I have never been prouder of anything or anyone in my life.
And then two days later came the fall.
But that only made me more proud.
The “fall” was a literal one, and you may well have seen it on TV. At the elite athletes’ event, British Olympic medal winning tri-athlete Jonathan Brownlee battled the same conditions. However, he failed to drink enough during the race and collapsed – only to be physically carried over the line by his brother. It’s here, just in case you didn’t see it. It only made my wife’s achievement in getting round the course in the conditions even more impressive.
The moral of the story is the obvious one. Life is short: in the words of Heather Small’s 2000 classic, ask yourself, “what have you done today to make you feel proud?” Then, whether you’re at work or half way around the world, make sure you do something.
Oh, and drink more.
Here’s to 2017!
*I don’t wish to upset 52% of the UK voting public (that’s less than 28% of the UK population, by the way) who seem to have set the direction of travel for the country for the foreseeable future. I’m not bitter and I’ve promised to steer clear of politics. So I won’t say anything. At all. Really.