Our recent run of back-to-back events has seen me running at the back of the field escorting the last few riders to the finish line. This is a smaller portion of the field. Their stories and reasons for tackling these events are varied. Often having faced life challenges or illness, or just been too busy, until now doing these events has been an out of reach ambition. Some have never ridden off road. Many have never seen a roadbook. Some are just having a bad day.
To those riders, this challenge is massive. I remember my first event more than all the others. I couldn’t imagine how anybody made this look so easy. I could not move the following day. And I’d ridden bikes from childhood. This is their first event and will be their memory for life.
When I catch up to these guys I’m often greeted by tired, apologetic faces, with faltering confidence, yet determined to get to the end without holding anyone up.
With company, their confidence often starts to recover and things come together and they are soon replaced by a new backmarker. I often won’t see them again until the finish, with tired but beaming expressions.
This is the place where the “mud and guts” is happening and life changing experiences occur. These guys may ache tomorrow but they’ll be 3 inches taller by Thursday.