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The bike path - Part One

This morning, I woke up a bit earlier than my wife and decided to enjoy the morning sunshine. The pool is now closed after Labor Day and it’s beginning to feel a bit cooler in DC. I’m assuming the summer will soon be over so I’m trying to soak up as much of the beautiful sunshine we’ve had over this summer as possible. We’ve finally set up our spare room and now have a couch in there so I am able to relax and look out the window. There is a symphony being played outside the window by our local cicadas—a beautiful cacophony of different sounds. I am pretty sure the sounds are mating calls, nothing makes that much noise unless they are peacocking to attract a mate.

As I start to reflect, my mind wanders back over 20 years ago to 1998. I’m living in the UK, in Leicester as a student, about to enter my final year of university. We are living a stone’s throw from Leicester city stadium; our house is a typical pigsty, considering 6 guys are living in it. It’s coming to the end of our summer break and we have all spent it generally wasting away the time, smoking, drinking, partying, playing computer games and watching countless episodes of the Simpsons. You will not be surprised to hear our diets have been horrific. I have ballooned to 20 stones, the heaviest I have ever been.

My roommate (let’s call him Roommate X) has been telling me some home truths of how I need to get my act together now that we are entering our final year. My other roommate (Roommate Y) is telling me that Roommate X is being rude and harsh for scolding me about being overweight, lazy and unfocused. However, on a night out with Roommate Y, he proceeds to spend the entire night making me the butt of his jokes to look cool, mostly putting me down for being overweight. I come home feeling very depressed. Roommate X invites me to go for a run with him the next day. Not sure what possesses me to say ‘yes’’, maybe the excessive alcohol consumption plus the anger over the jokes that had been told at my expense. So, I commit with a ‘yes’.

On the day of the run, Roommate Y decides he doesn’t want to miss out and will join us. Not the wisest idea by either of us considering we had been out the night before and drank our body weight in alcohol followed by burgers. So we anticipate the run with dread all day. It gets to 8pm and Roommate X comes into the living room to announce he is going for the run. Roommate Y has been trying to talk me out of it all day, but for some reason I am determined to go for the run. How I intended to finish the run is another matter. The jokes the night before are still ringing in my head and, fuelled by the anger, I’m pushed into action as I go to get changed. All three of us leave the house and set off into the darkness and bitter cold.

Every single part of my body is on fire, every breath is like needles down my throat, and my legs feel like they are going to fall off. We couldn’t have been jogging for long, maybe one and a half miles. Roommate X turns to look at me. I must have been a sight, with snot and tears running down my face. I think he senses I’m thinking of quitting. The bike path is coming up and it’s a steep hill that marks the entrance to the main park in the city center. Roommate X tells us we are running up it. Fear and dread immediately grip me and my legs now feel like jelly. Roommate Y gives up and says he has had enough of this circus and trudges off back in the direction of our house and away from the bike path. As we get to the bottom of the bike path, it looks like Mount Kilimanjaro to me.

I have no idea how I will make it up there, as I can barely walk. Roommate X turns around to me and says, “If you make it to the top of this hill, you will lose all your weight.’ Up to today, over 20 years later, I’m still not sure how the shift occurred in my mind. Here is what I remember thinking: I thought of my Mum and all the sacrifices she had made and I knew I wanted to come out of university with an Upper Second Class degree so that I could compete for a good job and give something back to her. So I swore to drag my ass up to the top of the bike path.

It felt like an eternity, running up the bike path, but I didn’t give up. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other. When I got to the top, I felt like I was about to die from exhaustion. Roommate X runs up to me and pats me on the back, and says, “What took you so long?” We carried on jogging and talking over the remaining 3 miles back to our house; I have never enjoyed a run so much. Over the next 3 to 4 months, I lost over 4 stone and earned an Upper Second Class degree.

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