I have a year left to live…

This is a fairly histrionic way to start off so I probably need to say that I don’t have a terminal disease, the grim reaper is not hovering and statistically I should be walking in the sunshine for many years to come. What I mean is that the person I know myself as is going to die in 12 months time.

I have played rugby almost constantly since I was 11 years old. There are many things about the game that I have loved but most importantly, it’s what it has done for me. Never a particularly athletic child, my ‘talents’ of being strong, fast and dismissive of pain meant that I was useful on a rugby pitch. As a child who was shy, didn’t make friends easily and didn’t had a personality that didn’t match my physicality, I suddenly found a place where I was valued, where people missed me when I wasn’t there and where for 80 minutes a week I could excel.

Rugby has been good to me over the years.

When I’ve moved towns I always knew where I could meet 40 new people. When I look back on my life and recall some of my greatest moments, they tend to involve me sprinting at full pelt and either smashing someone or touching the ball down. In my head I’m strong, I’m fast and more often than not, I am a valuable player to have on the pitch. But I have been betrayed.

I’ll be 43 soon and knocks that used to clear up after a weekend are still hurting 3 months later. Joints that were lithe and supple now click and creak when getting out of bed. The legs that powered me across the field are slower and weaker. I can’t go on the field and make the difference anymore and the part of me who has lived that for so long, will die at the end of this season. Never again will 14 people run to me to tell me how great I am. Never again will I hear a crowd cheer my name and never again will I sit in work on a Monday reflecting on the things I did that brought us a win.

That person will be gone. And I already grieve for him.

A strong part of me does not want to go gentle into that good night. With this in mind, I want this season to be great. One more year of trying to be among the fittest and the strongest. I will go to the training sessions and thrash myself. I will go to the gym and lift heavy things. I will eat clean and live well. One more season. This was a less daunting prospect last year when I decided I was retiring. Back then I was relatively healthy. Now my elbow and hip are complaining every time I exert them. On Tuesday is the first training session of the season and that is where I find out if I’m going to die in 8 months time, or if I’m dead already. I’ve always been able to play through injuries before but what if? What if?

This season will be a lonely journey with only sadness at the end. I hope you’ll come with me.

Tomorrow starts the healthy clean living. Fresh food, nothing processed and god forbid a bit of exercise. I’m starting from a poor fitness level at 15 ½ stone or 100 kilos, 5ft 11ins tall . In a tribute to Shrove Tuesday we are clearing all the unhealthy stuff from the fridge and cupboards tonight and tomorrow the quest begins.

One more season…

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