For me it all started with a phone call out of the blue… On the other end was a man who’d professed to have read my blog and it seemed like he assumed I knew who he was, immediately speaking as if we were already friends, but at that stage I didn’t know him… though, what I also didn’t know, was that this was a call that could possibly change my life forever.
The man on the line was Ruari Fairbairns, one of the founders of www.oneyearnobeer.com
The concept was set up by Ruari & Andy, two successful ‘oil & gas industry’ businessmen who’d both fought their own individual demons to rid themselves of their daily, alcohol fuelled, hamster wheel lifestyles, ultimately they achieved their goals and One Year No Beer was born!
The concept is simple, it’s about challenging yourself to take a break from alcohol to see how productive you can be. Sounds easy right? Well it’s not easy for everyone! You have various options, you can try one of three challenges, there’s the 28 Days, the 90 Day challenge and the full throttle 365 Day ‘Everest like’ effort… it’s not about abstinence at the end of the day for this brand, it’s about redefining your relationship with alcohol, whatever that means for you.
For me it means a new role, to support the OYNB brand to evolve their challenges into the corporate world, as a bipolar businessman who’s got a vast experience in corporate well-being, the team felt that I could add some value and to be honest this is the first phone call in a long time where I felt that I probably could add more value than even I knew at that point, but it also meant that there would be pressure on me not to become a hypocrite in sharing the concept with others… and this came at the right time…
For me it was important to take the 28 day challenge at least to prove to myself that I had what it took to go a month without numbing my senses to any serious degree and here’s how it started…
As I made my first video on Day 1, telling my followers how I’d set upon this task, I began with trepidation as I’d decided that the first logical step was to run up a mountain and break my very core, before building myself back up again.
So I did some basic stretching, bearing in mind that I’d not done much working out in a good 10 years and I’d always quit when I started to gain momentum in the past, then I put one foot in front of the other!
Before I’d done more than 100 metres I was on a rough terrain 35 degree incline and I knew I’d made a mistake, this wasn’t for me, I was going to have to push myself to do something crap, purely because I’d foolishly got myself embroiled in this escapade of pain.
Around 15 minutes in I was half way up what was now easily a 45 degree incline and I was power walking up the side of this mountain, sweating profusely and wondering what the hell I was trying to achieve. Then I turned around and for a moment and I caught a glimpse of the world behind me, the slope I’d tread and the village beneath me, it was then I knew that if I gave up at this point I’d never forgive myself…
Reaching the summit in 35 minutes was such a feeling of relief and success merged into one. I knew I wasn’t useless and that there was something within me still functioning at the foundation of my body. Granted it was a smaller mountain and I’d not run all the way yet, but it was day 1, I’d stopped for less than 2 minutes or so in the entirety of my journey and I felt deep within me that most people could not have gone up the sort of terrain I just faced at the same speed and some people would never have gone up that terrain full stop, so I was buoyed by this feeling of overcoming my personal laziness and pushing myself without rest.
Then I ran down! And to be honest as I ran down at an extremely fast pace, over rocks and branches and roots and nettles, I found myself… I saw a small glimpse of the man I could become and there was not a single ounce of pain or fear or weakness in my body, I was completely free and I truly believed in myself for the first time in a long time.
I was off… but how would I feel when I woke up on day 2?
My legs were stiff and I wasn’t sure what I’d attempt on this ‘day number 2’ but I was still filled with a sense of purpose and my trepidation had turned into focus.
My son had not been too well, so we were struggling to stand by his regular sleep patterns as he wasn’t comfortable and that created some strain, I felt for sure that I’d fail on that day and I didn’t really know if this was something I could do with all the anxiety in my mind. But a few weeks prior I’d lost some glasses on the local ‘proper mountain’ – they’d fallen off the buggy around half way up what’s around 1327 metres as far as I recall. Not the highest mountain again, but much higher than Day 1 and for the average walker lets say at least 3 hours climb or more in many cases because in totality you’re actually going at least 10km to get to the summit.
So I thought I’d run up as best as I could to try and find my glasses and then come back…
I was wrong!
As I struggled to set my pace it was around the end of the first kilometre that I started power walking again, I’d made an internal pact with myself that if I couldn’t run then I’d walk at least 2-3 times the pace of the average human to compensate and ensure that my cardio was still accelerating with every workout; also, no breaks meant that my body had to suffer the endurance even if it wouldn’t let me run because of those lazy years.
The first part of this effort after the kilometre I’d run was around 25-35 degrees of variant incline, so those who know running will know that even for a veteran that’s a hard run right there! But I fought through km’s 2 and 3 even running parts where I felt energy for a bit of drive forward, until I found the turnoff where I’d lost my glasses previously.
It was then that the road ended and the path became narrow and muddy, but it evened out in terms of gradient and I decided that I would be a complete wimp if I didn’t try to get a regular pace going where there was the possibility of a continuous run. So I started to jog.
From this point on I didn’t stop, I pushed myself at a pace through this narrow dirt ‘semi path’ that clearly no one tread regularly and I found my way through and back to the rocky based primary route, that had now become narrow and more like the steps of an Inca route, with jutted rocks and large tree roots in the way of your future gains.
I saw people trudging slowly up this completely uneven and fairly steep terrain, but I couldn’t stop myself, I just kept on going, I finally really felt what a second wind meant and I pushed and I pushed, past hiker after hiker, past family after family their mouth’s agape at the lanky white streak of tap water beasting by them. And eventually I made it to a 50-55 degree incline with about 50 metres to go until the base camp to the summit… that’s when I saw the 50 year old soldier in full military regalia out for a hike with his wife and I just couldn’t let the team down, so I power walked, scrambled, clawed and ran my way up that 50 metres despite the pain and I made it to the base camp without shame in my heart.
When I got over the final lip, there were yet more people sat around having their sandwiches and beers watching what the hell I was doing… I felt pretty victorious at this point as I flopped to my bum against the nearest fence and took on some water to quench my thirst. But as I sat there with all eyes on me for around 30 seconds, I thought screw this, I’m not at the top yet, the clocks still ticking and I decided to get straight back up and just run towards the route to the summit, taking the initial steps onto whats not much of a path at all and with everyone still staring at me wondering what the hell I was doing…
So, on I fought, running and power walking past the weekend wanderers until I reached the summit, flopping to the floor at the summit marker embroiled in my own triumph!
And there, in an hour and fifteen minutes I’d proven to myself that I could indeed surpass all my considerations for my own potential and succeed in defeating what I thought at the start of this mountain was an inability to run very far.
So what did I think was a good idea at this point? Have a banana, a nectarine and a wee and bomb it back down again 15 minutes after I’d made it to the summit…
It took me around 40 minutes to get back to the car, which is not bad at all for around 10km downhill. I think it was more like 9.3km to be fair, but none the less still admirable at pace on pretty treacherous terrain and without a single break. It was at this point when I was nearing the end and knew that I’d make it to my Jeep without a return journey rest, that I just felt like I hadn’t felt in years, I felt like nothing could stop me! I felt like I had everything to play for and that I could only get stronger from here on out!
The journey home with the music on and a clear mind was what I felt might be the path to some form of mental recovery, or at least a new direction and drive that I’d long since lost and somehow found anew in my quest to shock my senses into action!
I never did find those glasses but at this point I’d realised that no amount of Ray Bans would ever give me what I needed deep within, that feeling of self worth I’d been looking for, that internal compass set towards change. And all it took was me getting off my arse and doing it, no excuses, only a want for something more in my heart!