I turned 30 recently. Before you get any ideas, this wasn’t a particularly momentous occasion for me. I haven’t hit some sort of crisis, now that I’m waving my twenties goodbye and staring down the long road towards 40. All in all, it passed me by without so much as a passing thought to the loss of my youth.
As it was, Mrs Running Buffet and I spent the day on Dartmoor with my parents and their dog, this being our local stomping ground, happily tramping up hills in the bracing Devon air (said air seemingly unconcerned with staying put in one place for any longer than it needed to and taking the first opportunity to bugger off upcountry in icy gusts that cut right through the several layers of clothing that are de rigueur for a gentle stroll on Dartmoor). All in all, lots of opportunity to build up a hearty appetite. Dartmoor (and Devon in general) is blessed with plenty of pubs and we were lucky enough to round the day off in one of the best I’ve found so far, the Elephant’s Nest on the Western edge of the moor.
That night, as I lay in bed, a slight ache in my stomach as I slowly digested a rather large but ridiculously tasty dinner (Pudding? Well, it is my birthday), my mind began cataloguing the other aches and pains that had started to affect my body. Small niggling problems had begun to linger that little bit longer. That ache in my knee wasn’t going away quite so quickly; that weird cracking thing that I can do with my right ankle, perhaps that was starting to be less of an amusing party trick and more of a worrying defect. And surely I shouldn’t be groaning every time I get up from a particularly low slung chair. That can’t be good. Ever the optimist, I consigned these thoughts to that helpful area of my brain marked “nothing to see here, move along” and promptly fell into a contented 30 year-old’s sleep.
Over the next few weeks however, these thoughts returned to nag at me, tugging at my sleeve like an insistent brain Lassie, dragging me towards the ol’ abandoned well of dismissed concerns. Peering over the edge, I could just about make out a well-fed but creaky version of myself squinting up at me and waving.
“Are you alright?” I enquired.
“It’s nice down here” the well version of me cried back, “the food’s fantastic. For a well. Feeling a bit doughy round the edges, if I’m honest, but I’ll be alright. Did I mention the food?”
And that’s the nub of the problem I’m afraid. My 30 years have taught me a number of useful life lessons; not least that food is important. In particular, that eating bad food is a crying shame and should be avoided if at all possible. On the flip side, eating good food comes at a price and, if my days of youthful exuberance were drawing to an end, there is a very real risk that any lingering fitness could soon evaporate, leaving behind a creaking, aching and breathless version of the man I once was. Do I relax, not worry about it and coast downhill from here on in, with a pint of bitter in one hand and a pasty in the other, enjoying life in the slow food lane? But is downhill really where I want to be heading? Surely now is the time to grab the bull by the proverbials and to fight for my fitness.
So, The Challenge. Can I get fitter (and stay fitter) and, in doing so, allow myself the luxury of eating good food when I want? Can I really have the best of both worlds?
It’s the start of the summer (apparently!), so what better time to get outside, get fit… and then get fed.