The text of this post first appeared on the 5×50 website earlier in November.
53 days ago my brother called me. He does this from time to time. We spoke for a while before he suddenly mentioned something I hadn’t heard of before; something called the 5×50 challenge.
“You should try it” he said, “5km a day for 50 days until the end of British Summer Time.”
“You should be so lucky, that’s a hell of a commitment. I do work for a living you know. Long hours. And it’s getting cold out; autumn’s well and truly arrived. And, to cap it all, I’ve only recently re-started this getting fit malarkey. I’ve run 5km on one, maybe two occasions. There’s no way I’m going to be able to do 5km day in, day out for 50 – 50! – days. Jog on! Metaphorically speaking of course.”
At least, that’s what I could have said. It turns out however, that I said something more along the lines of “sounds fun, where do I sign up?”
Which is how I found myself sat in my dining room on a weekend morning, in my pyjamas, tapping my credit card details into the laptop. At this stage, I must admit, the challenge didn’t seem too hard. I had yet to even shower. Day one, Sunday 9 September, wasn’t that difficult either: we took our bikes out onto the Granite Way cycle track and easily burst straight through the 5km mark. Piece of cake.
If truth be told, the first week was altogether easier than I had imagined. With a convenient day off work on day two I had plenty of time to walk into Exeter (not taking the park-and-ride, the challenge had already started to have an impact on my day-to-day choices) and I was back on my bike on day three. Day four was my first 5×50 run, followed by a post-work walk down by the Exe estuary on day five. This was all going swimmingly.
Which allows me to segue nicely into one of the biggest highlights of the whole 5×50 challenge for me: getting back into the pool. Allowing you to swap your 5km for 30 minutes of an alternative activity meant that I could complete my daily requirements by swimming, something that I had loved doing but that I had drifted away from over time. Reinvigorated by the challenge, I restarted my membership and was soon to be found splashing happily up and down the pool, clocking up my daily 5×50 fix.
It wasn’t all plain sailing though. Week two brought me crashing back down to earth and challenged my desire to see the challenge through. Long days. Getting home late. Cold, dark, windy nights. These conspired to tire me out and to make the exercise that little bit harder, that little bit more challenging. Nobody really wants to leave their warm house to get on their bike and cycle 5km in the pitch black on the edge of Dartmoor. Do they? They certainly weren’t out doing it when I was slogging through the gears into a blustery Devon wind in suffocating darkness.
My biggest “oh crap I might have to give this up” moment came as we approached the half-way point. With a left knee that can only be described as “a bit creaky”, I had tried to pace myself through the first few weeks of the challenge. By day 25 though, it was in a bad way and I was thankful that I had the low-impact option of resorting to the swimming pool to keep my daily quota intact. As expected, a trip to the doctor didn’t highlight anything much to worry about but I was officially not allowed to run until after I had seen the physio. The second half of my 5×50 challenge would be all about the pool and the bike.
And the odd spot of 5-a-side, but that’s probably okay. No?
So here we are: me, my knee and over 5000 other challengers. Day 50 of the challenge. I may not have (nay, definitely haven’t) clocked up the most kilometres, and I may not have been the quickest. But I have completed the challenge. Around a life, one filled with work and trips to the supermarket and the hundreds of small things that fill up our days, I have found time to cross off another 5km, another 30 minutes. One by one, for 50 days.
I have started swimming again. I have completed more 5km runs than I had all summer. I have learnt how to fix a V brake (thank you youtube). I have walked on Dartmoor and around country estates and alongside the river Exe. I have had fun.
And I’m not done yet. The challenge may be complete, but it is not finished. I was already looking to get back onto that fitness wagon and this has spurred me on. So on Monday morning, day 51 if you will, don’t be at all surprised to see me in the pool once again, clocking up a few more lengths. I’ll be the one with a smile on my face.