I can’t help notice that my beard is becoming whiter. It is taking on the gravitas of a Russian navy commander, an evil wizard or … an old man. First a few white hairs on the tache and now I see more salt than pepper on the goatee and the first signs of Reed Richards streaks.
All of this is fine of course, it is not the ageing that I object to just the slow disolve into flabby complacency that comes with it. There was a time when even the middle age spread of the chair sitting, office bound, game playing, laissez-faire would be fine and dandy for me. We are all aware our ageing comes ever closer, inexorably, but I always thought I would quite happily indulge in that journey. Do less, eat more, live fat and happy and say to myself ‘I have earned it’.
Trouble is things have changed. I have a happiness that I never expected to be so vibrant and now I want to make sure I can indulge in living. Because times have become harder, more of a struggle in the general world, I know I will need to increase my activity and action, not decrease it. Because I am so happy with my lady wife, I want to make sure we can do all the things we may have missed out on, not having met in our teens. Especially because I have the golden boy Taliesin, whom I want to share some youthful vibrancy with before he kind of grows up (though I dare say we will have a fair amount of vegitating in front of game console and screen to look forward to).
To cap it all off I find myself on the verge of my 40th Birthday. Oh folly, if ever it seemed like a good time to get my midlife crisis on it would be now.
I do not worry so much about this as it may sound, however, as I have been planning my mid life reconstruction since I was twelve. I had always planned to study hard in school in my early teens, breeze through higher education in my late teens, drop out and live large on foolish endevours for my twenties, get it together and sort it out for my thirties and then become a zen master of mind and body during my fifties. The missing bit is my forties. I had heard that was when life began so I thought I may need some time to adjust. Turns out I was probably right.
So I know I need to get fit and counter the flab. I need to regain some form of physical perfection that I have never had or needed. I grew up being the skinny one and for the longest time that was my definition of myself. There was never a need to excercise or watch my food intake or take any kind of precautionary measure for living. I just coasted liesurely along, with the smug knowledge that I could get away with it all for a very long time. Throughout it all though I would plan my next move; during my excess of youth in my twenties I knew I would need to cut back at age thirty. Only trouble was it kept going until I was thirty three. At that point I knew I would need to start becoming active around the age of forty and it seemed to be such a long way off that it was an easy promise to make myself. It comes around quickly enough and though I have put a lot of thought into how it would happen I still find myself charging toward that date without any breaks to speak of.
The main issue I have with this kind of plan is that I abhor physical activity and always have. If I am to take up some kind of activity I will need to trick myself into thinking it is fun. I know once I get into it I won’t want to go back, I have seen and heard tales to that effect from people around me who talk of the buzz of action and the withdrawal symptoms when complacency returns but I know how my mind works and I am going to need to re-contextualise my excercise.
I will have to use technology to increase my engagement. Any time I can utilise a pointless gadget or new technology then I am happier and more involved. I have a Runkeeper account and the relevant app on my iTouch. It can keep track of my calory burn, distance, speed and I get to listen to music. This will help me instigate the next part of my plan.
I have a two fold plan to take up running. The first is to counter the many years of inactivity by going through a ‘Couch to 5k’ process. There are many of them out there on the net, all based on the same premise; to start at the minimal level of training and work up gradually to a five kilometer run over a period of six weeks. After that one should be in a position to happily run three miles at a time and most likely three times a week. It doesn’t sound so difficult either, nothing daunting about it, nothing that seems insurmountable.
Stage two is to undertake a journey of 4,462 miles.
Not all at once, obviously, that would kill me!; it would be over a period of three years or so. Maybe more and maybe less. Who am I kidding a lot more but I like the long now and do not mind a very long project, the important thing is the exact distance. This would equate to the journey from Hobbiton to Hobbiton. There and back again.
It started with the Eowyn Challenge and a group that wanted to walk the distance from Hobbiton to Rivendell and to track their progress against Frodo’s journey. I very much applaud and admire this concept but I kind of thought it should be the Frodo Challenge, seeing as you were to follow Frodo’s hairy footsteps. Then I thought it wasn’t manly enough and woudn’t it be good to do the Aragorn Challenge. After a while I worked it all out and reaslised even the short hop from Bag End to the House of the Elrond was a frak-of-a-long journey and I shouldnt be so ridiculous. Then again, I thought, if there are no time limits then it is still a nice journey to follow and so why don’t I do the entire map? It doesnt matter how long it takes; it is the jouney not the destination.
The Eowyn Challenge states:
“The original Walk to Rivendell Challenge began on Monday, March 17th, 2003, but it is never too late to join in. We have other distances throughout Middle Earth that you may choose to travel. The founder of this fitness challenge is our Ranger Jewel. She began researching the miles, milestones and time frame of the hobbits’ journey to Rivendell in Fellowship of the Ring . We were later joined by Karen Wynn Fonstad, author of the Atlas of Middle-earth. Mrs. Fonstad provided us with very detailed charts of all the Fellowship’s journey through Middle Earth. Much of the information provided is exclusive to the Eowyn Challenge and can be found nowhere else. The challenge is very simple and flexible; anyone can develop their own variation on this basic idea.”
Here would be the details of the challenge I have in mind:
- 458 miles: Go from Hobbiton to Rivendell.
- 462 miles: Set out with the Fellowship from Rivendell to Lothlorien.
- 389 miles: Travel through Moria and down the Anduin from Lothlorien to Rauros Falls.
- 484 miles: Follow the path of Aragorn, Legolas and Gimli from Rauros to Isengard.
- 786 miles: Travel with Aragorn from Isengard to Dunharrow through the Paths of the Dead to Minas Tirith.
- 138 miles: Follow Aragorn from Minas Tirith to the Morannon.
- 120 miles: Return for Aragorn’s crowning from the Morannon to Minas Tirith.
- 1625 miles: Take the road home with the hobbits from Minas Tirith to Hobbiton.
- – 535 miles from Minas Tirith to Isengard
- – 693 miles from Isengard to Rivendell.
- – 397 miles from Rivendell to Bag End.
After all of that there may even be a chance to nip off to the Grey Havens.
- 467 miles: Follow Frodo to the Grey Havens and return home with Sam.
If I can make 9 miles in a week then it would take roughly ten years to complete, which is perhaps too long to maintain even for the far sighted approach. If I add in the full distance I commute each day (47.34 miles) I would do it in roughly 5 months, which is perhaps too short a time to enjoy the journey and depressing to think I travel that much ( plus I would burn through it if I took a business trip). If I add just the walking portion of my commute, with a little extra for weekends, then I could make it in just over five years.
The good things about this type of challenge is that it can be subdivided into a lot of minor and major goals to aim for. One could get to Bree and the Prancing Pony in 8 weeks; perfect time for a knees-up. 14 weeks would bring one to the Attack of the Nazgul at Weathertop; perfect time for a stabbing… OK, I won’t be taking it all too literally. In fact, most of the entire journey in the text would be considered dangerous, arduous and difficult, so I can always compare my pampered jaunting to the trials of the Fellowship and feel better.
A lot of advice is to join forces with others to cushion the mind numbing boredom of extensive fitness regimes and gain some kind of group solidarity and safety. It sounds reasonable but goes against my inbuilt anti-social nature. I do think I can adapt to fit my lifestyle though. I will be calling out to gather a Fellowship of friends who may wish to mark their progess along side mine. I know some people who do an occasional bike ride and I know others who run mutiple Iron Man marathons during the year. I would be interested to see the difference as the more sporty race off ahead along the map of Middle Earth as I plod ever, ever on. If anyone is brave/stupid enough to want to take that journey with me, purely in a virtual environment, then I will take their distances weekly and track the progress of this fellowship, charting their entrances and exists along side my path.
Strength and Upper Body
As a further development to my planned excercise I have an ambition to include sword training. I know, it sounds absurd but also plausible. It may seem like I have been reading too much ‘Game of Thrones’ and have gone a bit off track from the reality of my middle class, sedate lifestyle but there is more sense to it than it sounds. It is more likely that I have been throwing myself into the mindset of Westeros and sword fighting as a means of generating momentum. Psyching myself up over a very long, slow period of time to do a physical activity that I can get into.
Going to see the Backswording events at the Oyster Fair was one of the first keys to unlock my thinking on this. That and the Morris Men. All of these ancient and yet living activities that key directly into the essence of our histories. Plus the fact that these recreations and old skills are maintained by older men, grey haired men with wrinkly faces; I prefer that image to what I understand of the ‘gym set’. There is no posing or artifice and it allows for all age groups inclusively.
I also want an activity I can grow along with Tally and his ability or interest. I had always thought of fencing proper, aikido or archery would be great activities that both he and I may be able to share as he grows. We may yet take up these skills in time but I would like to have something that can be maintained at home if possible. The schooled environments for these activities invariably require transport or kit of some kind but generally he will be able to take or leave these skills and move off along on his own; obviously eclipsing both my long term ability and commitment.
Such activity will require me to build a Pell at some point which both leaves the endeavor as a purely theoretical branch of study for the present time but also sets the timing to coincide with a place in my life that has a bit more time and space. There’s time enough for that one, first things first.