Those who’ve been reading the “Messages from the Mountains” series of blogs about my 3 Peaks experience may have got the idea that I’m up for challenging myself lately. Anything that requires me to use focus to do something I’d previously seen as impossible for me. The reason for all this is that I realised late last year that I nearly lost my right leg nearly 33 years ago (see my blog about that here), and I’d been using my ‘bad’ leg as an excuse not to do stuff.
So you won’t be surprised to hear that when a friend asked me, a week ago, if I fancied ‘making up the numbers’ for a charity firewalk, I leapt at the chance. It’s something I’d never done before, and always wanted to. So that’s how I found myself at Atkins Global (who were hosting the event, for TheStudio ADHD Centre) in Epsom on Friday night, sitting down to Blaze Firewalking‘s delightfully-named “Learn or Burn” training session for the volunteer firewalkers.
Most of the volunteers had had plenty of notice, and plenty of time to get sponsorship – as I’d only heard about it about a week before, mine so far consisted of myself and my long-suffering wife. (It’s not too late to sponsor me though, and it is a good cause: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/AndrewHorder ) All apart from the one very brave lady who was persuaded to do it on the night – I hope her friends honour her courage and spontaneity with plenty of sponsorship! And as well as not having had time to do much in the way of sponsorship, I also hadn’t had time to do much in the way of research either. Or getting nervous. Several people commented on how calm I seemed; I wasn’t calm, just ill-informed.
So it came as a bit of a surprise when “Fire-Master” Tony’s training included the bit about “there’s no tricks, the core of the fire you’ll be walking over really is 1236 degrees Fahrenheit (to put that in perspective, aluminium is a liquid at about 1100F!)”. And the bit where he said “no, there’s no nice cool layer of ash over the top, that’s just burning embers you’ll be trotting across”. And when he said “even after we’ve poured buckets and buckets of water over it after your walk, the fire bed’s going to take ages to cool down”. Yikes! This is real fire-walking then!
Nonetheless, two hours later, there I was with the rest of the team, as Tony took us close to the fire to feel the heat radiating from it – just so that we’d always know that this was real, there was genuine heat coming off that fiery track we’d soon be walking. We lined up, ready and raring to go – like the rest I couldn’t wait to singe my hairy feet on the 20ft runway of red-hot glowing embers. Summer from Blaze showed us the way, quickly followed by one after another of the volunteers, striding across the heat to the uproarious encouragement of the supporters and onlookers.
And suddenly it was my turn. “Are you ready?” Fire-Master Tony shouted. “Oooh, yessss!” I affirmed, as I stepped confidently forward into the darkness, the only light being the fire at my feet stretching out in front of me. If I’m honest, about 2/3 of the way across I got a distinct feeling of something more than warmth underfoot, and I picked up the pace somewhat (not that I was dawdling in the first place, you understand!). And before I knew it, I was off the other end, my feet enjoying the cool dampness of the grass as I punched the air in triumph.
So, what did I learn from this new experience? Well, not that I can do the impossible – I already knew I could do this, never doubted it for a moment (ill-informed, over-confident? … who knows). I’ve known for ages that I can do pretty much anything if I focus enough on it. And do it. I said at the beginning, I’ve wanted to do a fire-walk for ages. So why hadn’t I? Inertia, mainly. Both this and the Three Peaks had been reactive – the opportunity had presented itself, and I’d taken it. I could say my learning was “Carpe Diem”, seize the day – but that’s not it.
Despite being with a bunch of people I mainly didn’t know, I really enjoyed my fire-walk, so much so that I thought to myself as I drove out of the car-park afterwards: “That was great! Why didn’t I do this ages ago?” And that was my lesson: make your own opportunities – focus on finding ways to do the things I want to achieve, don’t wait for them to land in my lap!