Tuesday, August 27, 2019

On the final day of PBP 2019

Thursday morning on the final day of PBP. I am on the way to Rambouillet. The sun is rising over golden French fields. I am one of several riders who find themselves together at this place at this time. We are climbing yet another long but gentle rise.

"Are you happy?" 

The question comes from the clear, almost musical London accent of a man's voice.

No one responds.

The voice repeats the question.

"Are you happy?"

It is so close to me I turn around and ask those behind me,
"Are you speaking to me?"

He says,
"I'm speaking to anyone who is listening. 
Are you happy?"

I think of the difficulty of the first day, the steady wind, the fatigue, lack of sleep, the pain of PBP. I think of the challenge of the long second day, pushing forward to relentlessly make progress to Brest and back. I think of the doubt and melancholy that grip me in the darkness of night and the struggle to continue. I also remember the wonderful friendly welcomes from local culture and being surrounded by so many enthusiastic people fully living. 
Then I respond.

"Yes I'm happy.
I've been happy the whole time."

"REALLY?" He asked with a touch of disbelief

"Really." I say.

"If I wasn't happy I wouldn't be here. All the unhappy people stopped riding long ago as well they should because if the ride is not making you happy why continue to needlessly suffer?

There was a pause - a moment of silence - as pedals turned to push us up and forward.

I asked him,
"Are you happy?

He responded. "Yes. I'm happy to be almost done. I'm happy to have a beer. I'm happy to have a shower and I'm happy to have a rest after the finish.

"Good! I say. "Those are all good reasons to be happy."

We crest the hill and begin another coast downhill on almost manicured roads that weave away towards the end of PBP.

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