Rituals. We all use them to mark events or celebrate dates.
At this time of year I like to do something I’ve never done before.
Today I swam 1900m (according to my watch) or 1700m (according to my count). Either way it’s the furthest distance I’ve ever swum. And I only stopped swimming because Charlton Lido closes at midday and I had to get out so the lifeguards could take a lunch break.
In February last year, after weeks of adult swimming lessons and practice, I managed to swim one length of the pool at Downham Health & Leisure Centre. A whole 25m. It was the first time in my life I’d swum front crawl (or freestyle) that far.
I’m not a natural runner but in February 2015 I was getting ready to run my first 10km. I had no idea what it would feel like and, with the confidence of someone who’d never run 10k, I registered to run my first half marathon – which became one half of the Freyathlon marathon.
I spent most of February 2014 in Sydney. I’d lived there in the early 2000s but this was my first trip back to see family and friends. My brother decided it would be fun to go horse riding one afternoon. We drove out of Sydney with one of his daughters. They both own riding boots and trousers, I don’t. At the riding stables I was equipped with a horse that quickly took control of the situation. We walked. We trotted. At the end of the afternoon when we were close to the stables, the horse sped up and overtook everyone else. My first experience of horse riding and I had no plans to repeat it.
But February 2013 is when this ritual started.
Because that’s the month, and 21 February is the day, I left hospital after completing six rounds of chemotherapy.