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Adam Lee-Potter: I signed up for the Weymouth half-Ironman even though I hate running

15:33 16 February 2017


A rash pact made with a long-lost friend over a pint or two at The Square & Compass provides a new fitness challenge for Adam Lee-Potter in 2017

Lord Chesterfield had, of course, something else entirely in mind when he said: “The pleasure is momentary, the position ridiculous and the expense damnable.”

But his words work for middle-aged cycling just as well, if not better: the post-Christmas hills are taking more than they give, my New Year Lycra is unforgiving and Italian carbon has long proved a costly mistress.

To misquote John Updike: cycling is like money, only too much is enough.

And January is, as ever, as good a time as any – however painful – to step away from the roast potatoes and claret.

I have just – in a rash pact with a long-lost friend – signed up for the Weymouth half-Ironman, despite the fact that I hate running and I can’t really swim.

I am cheered by the fact that my friend is in the same boat, albeit an even older one.

And, frankly, it is a miracle we are both still standing, let alone contemplating strapping on our trusses to swim, cycle and run 70.3 miles in September.

I first met Neil at Manchester University’s squash club half-a-lifetime ago. Very early on, it became palpably clear that our fondness for beer and fun outstripped even our love of the world’s best sport.

We lost touch soon after graduating: he headed south to find oil in Angola while I shot off to Fleet Street, via Yeovil.

That is probably just one of the reasons why he drives an Aston Martin, and I don’t.

Imagine my surprise when – 25 years later – I got an email out of the blue, suggesting a bike ride to the Square and Compass.

Our reunion was an afternoon-long hoot, perhaps too much so. Bidding our farewells four hours later, Neil promptly waved over his shoulder, shot the junction and cycled straight into the side of a moving car.

It was, for him, a costly afternoon: a broken collarbone, three ribs, a hole in his side the size of a small saveloy and a mashed finger, not to mention a £1,000 garage bill and battered pride.

But it could have been so much worse. Days later, we celebrated his 50th birthday at his glorious, rambling farmhouse outside Wimborne, one of his freshly-slaughtered lambs roasting on an impressive, home-made spit.

“When you turn 50,” he told me stressily, as he herded his sheep and sorted out the music, just before his remaining 60 guests arrived, “take my advice and don’t have a party. It’s way too stressful.”

“Well, it’s a lot more fun than a funeral,” I reminded him, sanctimoniously. And – as he joyfully admitted later, surrounded by a blaze of friends and family, food, fire and wine – it jolly well was.

The best reunions do not generally involve a coffin or a clergyman.

January is all about new beginnings, a time to start afresh, be it work, health, love or friendship.

It is never too late to try again.

So, if you yearn to leave home, reach out to an old friend or a new lover, launch a precarious business, take a rogue to the cleaners or take part in a half-Ironman, now is the moment to vow to have a go.


Adam Lee Potter: Finding my inner Bodger - When your toolboox blowtorch is strictly for searing scallops, is planning some Victorian doors beyond a gastronome’s basic carpentry skills?


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