Many moons ago, I decided that I wanted to take up rollerblading so duly jumped on eBay and bought myself a pair of shiny adult roller-blades.
Sadly they were used once. Home is hilly and not conducive to happy skating, so they became a home for spiders and the like.
Fast-forward to December-ish last year and I see that they do rollerblading tours round Paris - one on a Friday night which is rumoured to be at speed and for more experienced and a different company run a Sunday afternoon bimble which is more friendly for families and those 'not as confident'.
I also see that they do a 24-hour rollerblading 'ultra' at Le Mans.
I very much want to do this. I don't know why, but I really REALLY do.
I had been and scoped out the Sunday skate, it was free and had all shaped and sizes of people - little people, older people, those on retro 4 wheeled skates, those on pro blades.
There were lots of staff, easily identifiable in bright yellow tops. There was a row of police bikes leading the ride and an ambulance at the rear.
Very well organised.
I decided that I would have a go the next chance I got.
The very generous Bear had said it would be easier to buy skates in Paris that have the hassle of shipping over my eBay ones - besides, the spiders would complain.
Also buying them would mean I could practice.
So, along with all the protective paraphernalia, Bear bought me some new roller blades.
(Thank you V much x)
The day before, I found a closed road in the park and scooted up and down the closed road.
I practiced going downhill.
I practiced going up hill.
I can do this.
I have remembered.
It may have been over 20 years since I skated for any length of time, but I hadn't forgotten.
(when did I become 34?)
What I HAD forgotten was how much it hurt my shins and ankles.
After half an hour, my legs were grumbly.
Meh, 3 hours the day after would be fine.
So, the day arrived and suddenly, I was full of all the terror.
What if I fell over? What if i was crap?
What if I was slow?
What if my legs hurt after 10 minutes?
Skates and armour on.
Yes I wore protective lid, knee, elbow and wrist guards, yes I looked a prize pudding, no I didn't care.
And off we go.
Me and approx 350 other people skating round the streets of Paris in convoy.
It was BLOODY BRILLIANT.
Then I looked at my watch.
We had been going for 10 minutes and covered about 2km.
I'm gonna be tired by the end of this.
Down the back of the Louvre - pedestrians are filming as the odd sight travels past them.
Round the corner and over the cobbles.
What The Actual Hell?
Oh my goodness. My shins and knees are NOT made for being shock absorbers.
A band is playing in one of the squares.
It makes me smile.
I am LOVING this.
It is utterly bonkers, but I am loving it.
This is playtime fro grown-ups.
My speed is ok - I am holding my own in the middle of the pack - a few people over take me, but that's ok.
The road turns from one way traffic into 2.
"A droite, a droite" the staff are shouting.
Throughout, there have been the 'cool kids' doing tricks.
skating backwards, doing jumps, cutting people up.
They are skilled, but I am taken back to my teenage years of 'not fitting'.
My head space starts to slip.
I am starting to get tired too.
Traffic panics me a tad, not much - the cars are aware of us.
One minute I am skating along, the next I have face planted.
Wahoo - didn't feel a thing.
Huzzah for armour.
I had hit a cats eye and BOOM.
A member of staff is there in a second.
Do I need help? Do I need an ambulance?
Non, merci, c'est bonne.
No, thank you, I'm good.
And I really am. I am not hurt in any way.
I get up and carry on.
But I am tiring, my legs are starting to shake from the strain and the little voice in my head that has been silenced for so very long awakens.
'You can't do this'
'You shouldn't be here'
'What makes you think you can do 24 hours of this? You struggled after 25 minutes'
I tell the voice, I am fitter than I have ever been.
It is simply a matter of re-learning a skill and bringing the muscle memory back.
The voice quietens briefly.
I have fallen to the back now, when we stop and reconvene 'beginners and slower skaters to the front' is bellowed in multiple languages "debutants et les personnes plus lentes a l'avent"
So I move to the front.
When we reconvene again, I am at the back.
The voice is screaming to be heard now, mocking me.
Really mocking me.
I move to the front of the group.
We set off again and hit a steep down hill - I can see the ascent at the other side knowing it will slow me down, that I need to apply physics and the laws of motion to the situation.
This stops the voice and I am fine.
The next hill I am less fine.
The voice starts as we roll down hill, the faster I get, the louder the voice gets, the more nervous I become, the more excited the voice becomes.
It is being fed by my nervousness.
But I can't.
I am unsure how I will stop.
There was no end to the hill.
What if we re-convene in the middle of the hill and I am the one responsible for knocking everyone over.
I was down again.
This time on my arse.
One of the pack stands behind me and makes sure that no-one coming down the hill hits me.
A member of staff comes and helps me up.
The man who stood behind me takes my hand and helps me to the bottom of the hill.
I thank him and don't see him again.
I want to peel off at the next Metro station.
I want to go home.
This feeling remains at every Metro station I pass.
I am in my Team Bear hoodie.
Suffer but NEVER surrender.
You can do this Rach.
There were a number of 'what the hell do I think I'm doing?' and also a number of 'I can do this, everyone starts somewhere' conversations with myself.
The voice was busy giggling in the background.
But I made it back to the start.
I was Properly Pooped and I would have a cracking bruise to show for my efforts.
Ultimately, I love it.
I was cross that my fitness didn't transfer as easy as I'd hoped.
But I had done it.
And I had a starting point and a measure for next time.
I have work to do.
So, I'd best get my skates on and do it.