Blink. Blink. The sound effect is silent in your head as the rings of light tumble down to green. Push down with the right, urge the left to catch the slack in 3 – 2 – 1 and you’re moving. Phew. Your morning now framed by the stops and starts of traffic and the fascination that you can, at times, negotiate it like a knife in butter. And at other times merely bunny along with one foot on the pavement, hop hop hop; progressing an inch at a time. Life rumbles around you as exhaust pipes, hydraulic bus brakes and over defined calves of the cyclists ahead of you.
I didn’t cycle during the Olympics in spite of lame protestations to do so. The weight of my own expectations to transport myself 6.23 miles from home, and to repeat the task in reverse (and then uphill) 9 hours later was daunting enough. A host of other reasons followed: I needed a new rucksack – enter new Langchamp backpack: if I’m doing it, I’m doing it with the aim to be featured in one of those Cycling In Style books. I needed to fight the spiders in my shed to reclaim possession of the bike. I needed to find the keys for the shed. In short, I needed to get my s**t together.
In truth, perhaps I have issues living up to my own ideals. Ideally, I’d have 195 miles under my belt and £45 more in my pocket had I cycled from the beginning of the Olympics until now. In the end it was not the giddy thrill of avoiding the impending hoards of ruthless enthusiasm on my morning overground commute, nor the promise of a calorie debt meaning I could eat like the fat kid inside me wants to. It was the combination of a feature in Emerald Street (who recently tweeted me! Thanks @emeraldstreet!), the promise of cocktails with Claire and a supreme afternoon of sunshine to get my gears grinding.
Knowing that the Editor of Emerald Street cycles into work on a pale blue Dutch style bike and presumably still looks groomed enough to be both, in charge of the biggest freemium magazine around and taken seriously at meetings lead me to believe that I could probably cycle 6 odd miles to Kensington for Roof Garden cocktails (just one, Mum!) and pass myself off as a polished and non sweaty person. Sunday drinks had even the flamingos fooled, but I have discovered that the challenge to scrub up to office standard after wearing a ventilated styrofoam hat for a half hour, or for those of us without DW40 in our handbag; basically wearing a hat in summer and looking good later, is not that much pressure when you work in an industry so casual that editors wearing their pyjamas is no big deal.
In the last 6 days since the Olympics finished, I’ve cycled 78 miles the length and breadth of London. Why am I not an Olympic medal hope yet? Given the obesity crisis in this country, I feel a little like being able to cycle up the street should win me something more than my own respect. I guess perhaps we’re afraid of our own potential – or that we will inadvertently discover a disappointing lack of it. What if we attempt something to the best of our ability and pull it off; we will have to perform to that level at ALL TIMES! Imagine!, having your game face on at all times?! It’s why we cancel plans at the last minute for an evening fluffing around at home or why we leave it until the last minute to plan a trip. Its why we talk a big game but only fulfil on it 50% of the time as by being occasionally disappointing and maximising the margin of error, we generate the opportunity to moan that we’re not satisfied with something, so that we can step in and step up at the 11th hour because we all want to be the best at something, and IRL that isn’t easy to do.
Its why Tennis schools and parks are full for the duration of Wimbledon. It’s why we were so riveted by the games because we’re fascinated by the limits of our potential – put your mind to something and you can achieve it. How else are we able to make the impossible, possible? We like to be inspired, but if we all actually took that inspiration and ran with it, we’d all have to quit our jobs to be professional sportspeople. I think we’re conditioned to settle a little under our potential, and why at least for a few weeks, I’ve picked up my helmet to try to pinpoint mine, about a fortnight too late.