70 at 70

Well, that came around quickly! It has been observed that as we get older time seems to pass more rapidly, while our bodies tend to slow down.
Towards the end of last year I started thinking about my impending 70th Birthday. It is one of life’s milestones and generally regarded as the beginning of the transition into old age.

I’m not one for big celebrations so previous “ significant “ birthdays have usually found me taking on a solo challenge. My 40th saw me heading to across the sea to Ireland for a solo end to end run. 50 saw me back there for another solo run, this time coast to coast from Galway to Dublin. By the time 60 came around I’m no longer a spring chicken, but a chance encounter with a group of cyclists on the Canal towpath in the heart of Edinburgh revealed that it would be possible to run from Glasgow to Edinburgh completely off road along the towpath, so that was my 60th challenge sorted, with the added bonus of the distance being 60 miles.

In September of last year Ros and I each became the owners of a Brompton folding bike. I’d been an admirer of the engineering and design excellence of Brompton for many years but had never got round to acquiring one. The bike turned out to be one of the best purchase that I’ve ever made. I took to it straight away, and with encouragement and guidance from Ros we were soon exploring the paths and trails of Dorset

So, what to do for 70? Although running any sort of distance was no longer on the cards, perhaps a challenge on the bikes would be both achievable and enjoyable.

Ros has a wealth of experience in both planning and cycling long distances and she was soon on the case. A route was planned from the Sea Loch on the outskirts of Glasgow following the route of the Forth, Clyde,and Union Canals. This would take us on a mostly traffic free route from Glasgow to the heart of Edinburgh, and from there on to the coast at Portobello, a distance of 70 miles.

On May 22nd this year, Ros and I travelled up with our bikes by train to Glasgow. We’d booked a hotel near the station. After Pizza and a pint in a nearby pub we turned in early for the night so as to be well rested for the following days adventure.

It was shortly after 7am the following morning that we unfolded our bikes and set out along the canal towpaths towards Edinburgh. I’d been concerned that the towpaths might be problematic, especially along some of the more remote parts of the Canal but this proved not to be the case. There were a few areas under bridges where the old cobbles made getting off and wheeling the bikes the sensible option, but generally the cycling conditions were good. Ros and I made steady progress, enjoying the sights and sounds of the scenery and wildlife along the Canal, passing the occasional leisure barges with a friendly wave before stopping for lunch at the Falkirk Wheel. The Falkirk Wheel is a triumph of engineering, the only rotating boat lift in the world, it lifts Canal barges 24 metres into the air from one canal basin to another, truly a sight to behold and well worth a visit.
We were fortunate to see the wheel in operation as we ate our lunch, and after refilling our water bottles set off again on the next stage of our journey.

The weather was kind to us with a following wind helping us on our way as we approached Edinburgh. The Canal finishes right in the heart of Edinburgh and after the comparative solitude of the towpath the hustle and bustle of people and traffic came as a bit of a shock as we headed out on the final leg towards the coast.

As we cycled along the Promenade at Portobello and the end of our journey we could see Ros’s daughter Fi and her partner David waiting to greet us. A quick look at the Garmin showed a distance of 70.3 miles – perfect!

After a hug and a beer we adjourned to the pub and sat enjoying a drink as we reflected on a really enjoyable and fulfilling day, it has opened up all sorts of possibilities for further adventures together.

The following evening saw us enjoying a celebratory meal with a few friends. I was surprised and delighted to be presented with an amazingly created Birthday cake, not only was the decoration outstanding, it also tasted as good as it looked.

A couple of days later Fi and I ran the Edinburgh Half Marathon. We adopted a run / walk strategy and took things steadily, finishing the race feeling in fine fettle and feeling good!

Many thanks to friends and family for making it such a wonderful occasion, and especially to Ros for all her encouragement and the work she put in working out the logistics. We both had a wonderful time and have a few more Brompton adventures in the pipeline.