In the last couple of weeks John has maintained his training schedule, a mix of weight sessions twice a week and increasing the duration of the weekend pushes.
Increasingly in demand to give keynote addresses and inspirational talks, John finds the motivation to train when most us would be looking to snatch a quick 20 minute doze in front of the TV. In a typical week he travelled to Cheltenham to speak to students at a college as a key member of a programme called, 'Driving Inspiration.' He then spent all day at the University of South Wales helping to promote disability sport, and put in a few days at Fullcircle, helping Mark and the team get a few new leads.
On Sunday, some of the team got together for the next round of team training. For the first time we were able to sport our brand new Kilimanjaro Challenge T Shirts which turned out to be a hit with the various people who stopped to talk to us on our walk. It was nice to see hear people asking just how the heck was he going to do that? We find ourselves asking that question too!!
Our chosen route was a relatively gentle walk along the canal bank from Pontypool to Goytre Wharf and back, a total distance of about 22 kms, but one John could do without assistance. Apart from a stop to enjoy some traditional Italian fair at the Wharf, total walk time was about three and a half hours, a pace much quicker than we will be able to achieve on Kilimanjaro. The route along the canal path is fantastic, especially as this part of the canal is well used by day trippers in their barges.
A heron keeps us company for the first two miles, a huge bird, with an eye for a quick catch. In amongst fellow walkers, joggers and families out on their bikes, we come across a young family of ducks in Red Arrows formation enjoying a mid morning swim. The mother is no where to be seen, but we're sure she wont be far away. As we near Goytre Wharf, the number of boats increases, and their occupants range form young families to a group of 'mature' ladies enjoying a glass of wine as they chug quietly by. In his usual boyish and impish manner, John shares a comment or a joke with everyone who passes, and he never fails to put a smile on everyone's face.
After a relaxing lunch at half way, we all wait just long enough to start to stiffen up, all of us except John of course. He's off and running, ready to pull wheelies and make sharp turns for the amusement of the children who look at him as though is a circus clown. The best is yet to come!
Leaving the cafe, there is a sharp downhill pathway leading to a walkway where we re-join the canal bank. At 67 I'm thinking this really should be past him, but John gets to the top and lurches his wheelchair onto the steep downward slope quickly accelerating to about 30 m.p.h. There are elderly people at the bottom who hear him coming and look urgently in his direction with an incredulous look. He rushes past them, across a less than perfect cross junction, up the opposite side of the hill, turning quietly at the top, and then doing is all again in reverse. On-lookers are amazed by this spectacle, and it is clear that the entertainer in John loves it. In fact he loves it so much, he does it all over AGAIN!
Back to the sanctuary and safety of the canal bank, we again pick up a good walking speed as we make our way back to our starting point. After 22 kms at a very decent pace, the walking team members are feeling it - apart from a few blisters on his hands, Handsome Harris looks more like a man who has just turned up to pick us up, not one who has done the training push with us.
As endearing as Handsome Harris is, I'm beginning to think Popeye might be a more appropriate nickname!
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