The Director nodded cautiously; seemingly in agreement, but not quite committing to the initiative in a way that would allow us to move forward at the pace we desired. His team had not missed that important distinction, but they too seemed pleased we had progressed and avoided his 'right to veto'; which was the primary objective of the update.
I braced my arms and pushed my hips forward a couple of millimetres; engaging my core, mid-back muscles and glu-max, to take the strain. This allowed me to ease out of the chair. It was all invisible and seamless to my fellow attendees, but it wasn't the first time it had happened that week.
For the previous 6 weeks there had been occasions when I'd woken up at 4 or 5am; thinking whether I should continue to commit my body to completing the Magnificent 7 UK, but by the time I'd got out of bed and was heading to work, my head had said "Yeah, of course I should. Bring it on".
That is, until yesterday morning.
And so, on the morning of Saturday 10th December, my head started to listen to my body and I took the decision to pull out of 6 of the 7 challenges in The Magnificent 7 UK.
2. WTF or the voice of understanding?
The decision seemed so easy once I'd made it; almost a relief. The same relief I felt when I finally decided to sell Manor Farm House back in 2009; to eliminate the risk I faced in the financial crisis.
A self-inflicted pressure had been lifted, but was soon followed by a dangerous cocktail of guilt, the feeling I'd given up and the question of how others would react to my decision, after so much build-up for the event.
- What the hell do you mean you're not doing it? Man-up!
- I demand my money back.
- Oh you're such a failure.
- Hah, never thought you could do it.
I had a burning desire to email people and let them know: sponsors, charities, participants, suppliers such as AHOY and iPowerboat ... and of course other friends who have been great supporters over the last 6 years.
Twenty eight people and companies contacted and slowly but surely my phone started to beep with emails and messages. My hand quivered with nerves, in case the first replies meant the reaction was negative. I should have known that I had nothing to worry about thus far.
Whilst a couple of sponsors wanted their money refunding (and totally understandably), most participants were not only supportive, but went so far as to swap onto the one remaining challenge; tell me to keep their deposit and give it to a charity or simply tell me they knew how hard a decision it must have been to take.
Of all the responses, as kind as they all were, it was the one from a charity that moved me the most (albeit several other people said similar things) and boy, did it move me:
"Health and family come first. No-one should do anything that puts those at risk. You have done amazing things that charities have benefitted greatly from. It's now time for you to think about your own personal health and making this decision, whilst I know was probably difficult, is the right thing to do."
Another email added "Fully understand ... that point in life when you either recognise your strengths/limitations or you become an arse. Everyone gets older; there are very few that get wiser."
And other responses came in; asking if the Yorkshire 3 Peaks walk could still go ahead (as a fun event, with others joining the Great Wall of China team on their reunion hike). How could I say no, but that's where I have to draw the line ... so maybe you could say I'm not doing 5 of the 7.
3. Happier times ahead and happy times behind me.
The one challenge I'm still using to fundraise from the original Magnificent 7 UK is The Capital Tour - over 600 miles on the 7-seat circular bike.
It's a dream I've had since 2013 and something I want to say the following about: if you do nothing else then I ask EVERYONE that I know to please help me make this final adventure a successful finale to my challenges.
I have invested a lot of time, money and even spilled blood to achieve what I've achieved over the last 6 years. Lots and lots of people have been involved in my adventures and, between us, we've raised almost £110 000, but I still want to make the last one the best ever!
I'll share more info with you in 'Not for all the tea in China (part 2)'; including a look back at the training ride with the team from Communisis and remembering the amazing Great Wall of China Trek. Until then, thanks for your continued understanding and I'll hope to be able to look back at all my adventures this time next year.
Until then I'm having fun with the new type of challenge in my life - planning and arranging things for others, such as Jon Newall's #Lockyers2London hike - one of maybe a few challenges I won't be taking part in, but I'd still like to be involved in.
It's a sad sort of blog entry, but then a new chapter beckons in life. Time to look forward with no regrets: knowing the past is full of wonderful memories. After all of these (from 2009-2016) ......
..... there's just one more to go!
Sleep tight x