The people that have borne the brunt of this whole project so far are not Shaun and I but our respective families.
Hopefully it will be them too who see the benefit closest at hand when we’re all said and done in a few months time.
But in the meantime it’s the other halves who have been left holding the babies, washing the sweaty kit, and goading us on as we gallivant all over the shop making arses of ourselves in the name of self-improvement.
Given our constant absorption with work, gyms, blogging and charts (a friend half-jokingly described the whole Two Fat Laddies thing as a ‘very public year-long mid-life crisis’) our partners might not be aware just how vital they are to our success. They are.
For a change then from the usual me-me-me I spent my time last weekend over in Ireland where I joined my wife and her family in saying a final goodbye to her mother.
It could have been a doleful, stressful, tear-stained occasion. Instead I found it to be uplifting and it made me reflect on my own life and to thank my stars for everything I have.
My mother-in-law Veronica had a rich and interesting life.
Her death from cancer was cruel and hard and it took longer than you would wish on anybody.
Veronica’s five children, one of them my wife, are spread across Scotland and England and they all regularly travelled to her home in Donegal and the hospital in Dublin where she was being treated in her final days in 2010.
It must have been exceptionally hard on every one of them on all levels, having to part at the end of each weekend spent with her not knowing if that would be the final farewell, watching their mum fade in front of them.
But there were positives – from my perspective it brought the five of them all even closer together (if that were possible) and it gave Veronica the chance to say all she needed to say, and to get her own house in order before she died.
Her final wish was to be cremated and to have her ashes spread from the top of the hill overlooking the cottage where she and her family spent many happy times – a decision which is more than a little out of the ordinary in Donegal where the norm is burial.
Of her children, two are teachers and the rest all lead busy lives working and raising families. So even though she died quite some months ago there was no opportunity for all five of her children to be together before last weekend.
So it was that we congregated in a forgotten little corner of rural Ireland.
And on a dry, warm, day we made our way up through the peat, moss and the bracken to the top of Crockunna. There, by the stone cairn which Veronica’s family have added to over the years, we each took our turn and spread her ashes to the wind. I watched my-mother-in-law’s mortal remains blow away towards the North and North-East, down towards the Granny Glen and the majestic white beach of the Maghera strand with Mount Errigal visible miles away in the distance.
There were a few tears, and i have no doubt each of the five of them had some of their own painful memories private to them, but there were a few laughs also, and we toasted Veronica with a good bottle of champagne. It was a fitting tribute and her children seemed to me united.
As I stood there with them I thought about how lucky she was to have had five remarkable folk for offspring, all alive, all healthy and all able to pech their way up a pretty steep hill in her memory.
They each took a turn scattering her ashes and they left a St Bridget’s Cross tucked tightly between the stones in the cairn to mark the occasion.
As we made our way down with the skylarks singing above us there were all kinds of thoughts crowding in on me – pride in my wife and her in-laws, a realisation I really do need to get my house in order when it comes to sorting out the pension and the life insurance for the kids, pain in my calves, a drooth, you name it.
The remainder of the weekend was, for me at least, spendid. I am sure Veronica would not see that as dis-respectful. In the broadest sense we enjoyed an Irish wake. Many of her neighbours, colleagues and friends came to the cottage to pay their respects, and it was dignified if a little raucous.
That we also enjoyed a cloudless sky, a full moon, and a midge-free barbecue under the stars must represent an alignment of the planets rare in that part of heaven on earth.
Shaun and I have a long way to go, but if we stay alive long enough to enjoy our families the way my wife does hers we will have succeeded.
As a post-script, it goes without saying that the pair of trainers which I packed never made it out of the bottom of the rucksack.