Memories of the old physical life

Memories of a physical life. Glistening snow on the frozen lakes at Sils Maria as we skied cross-country. The skis are in the garage for another day. Swimming 1000 metres at lunchtime under the sun in Sydney. Walking past the fresians across the fields to Chipperfield. Getting to Annapurna Base Camp and seeing the Himalayas at dawn. Biking at 15 from York to Lulworth Cove and putting the wheels in the sea. Commuting to Amadeus at Sophia-Antipolis on my stunning La Pierre. A half-marathon to the lively cheers in Milan, a swim across the Bosphorus in 1996. 

The 5-mile cross-country run across the thick grass of York Racecourse, running around the back lanes of well, everywhere I’ve lived…..Poppleton, Aston, Surbiton (by the Thames), Caddebostan, Arnavütköy, Lesmo, Arturo Soria, North Shore Sydney, Berkhamsted, the great hills around Magagnosc, then lastly Kings Langley. Running shoes always with me on work trips. It must be a few thousand miles.

Getting high. The Three Peaks, Dolomites, Picos de Europa, Kosciusko, Vanoise, Gran Paradiso,  Nepal, Ivinghoe Beacon, weekend hikes with Jane in the Italian Alps. Heart pounding, sweat pouring, out of breath.

It helps to write about it.

I encourage our children and I encourage you to go a little higher or further than you think you can. Some of the real joy and beauty is found at the limits.

The sound of boots and sticks on the stony mountain trails, voices in five languages, a cross or the Madonna, a cool drink at a refuge, views of the glaciers, sweat drying in the warm sun. Hours more ahead, what a feeling.

Playing in the sea (or ocean) with the children at Balmoral Beach, at Juan-les-Pins, Currumbin, the Algarve and at West Wittering. Endless buckets of water, running for miles and trying to stand up in the Aussie surf.

The push from the end of the pool and 50 metres ahead. Get the legs going and the arms over. Last time was at outdoor pool in Forchheim in summer 2014. 

A great badminton or squash rally; hitting a ball from the sixth tee on our little hole on a bright day. Playing basketball or street tennis. Picking up my children as babies an toddlers, giving them a great hug now (Sebastian lies on me these days).

Today I don’t stop exercising. I lie on my back on my adjustable and move my legs back and forwards about 50 times on the right and 20 on the left. I use my bed rail for squats and lifting the knees, plus taking one step to each side. Today I made it to the toilet from lying down unaided, first time in weeks. Ten minutes of standing with small squats against the wall is enough before spasticity locks the legs. I will never give up my physical exercise.

Sometimes my frustration at being so incapacitated is too much for me to bear. As you know I live in the present, but of course memories come. They are great memories of the physical life I used to have. I watch how Valentina and Sebastian run, jump, throw, ride, hit. I love watching them, but sometimes they get the butt-end of my frustration. It’s so complicated.

Andrew Knowlman

I am a 50-year old father of two children, married to Jane. I live in Hertfordshire, UK. I was diagnosed with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis in April 2015.

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