My eyes darted left and right, scanning the crammed ferry lounge area for a spare seat. Seeing more people than seats, I was doubtful, until, hang on….wait….what was that? YES! A seat with no one in it. Moving as fast as I could while trying not to draw attention to myself, I threw myself into it with a big “oooooffff”, in a kind of territory-claiming ritual.
I’d plopped down next to two people in bright purple t-shirts and started a dialogue about the joy of finding a seat and a place to rest my weary legs for a short while. Exchanging stories of aching legs, tiredness and sore bottoms, we all laughed at ourselves for having entered the London to Paris 24 hour cycling challenge.
Laraine and her companion (a work colleague I think) were fundraising for the Stroke Association (hence the purple t-shirts) and this was a number of sports events she’d entered. If I remember rightly, it was a last-minute entry, only decided a few weeks (or days?) beforehand. I think I thought she was crazy as, but was impressed with her gutsy determination to crack the fuck on for a worthy cause.
It’d been raining, and the entire lounge of the ferry was covered in cyclists and cycling kit. Every seat and surface had some kind of kit hanging off it trying to dry, so I was thankful I now had someone I could ask to keep an eye on all my stuff so I could go to the toilet/get changed/sleep. I don’t know how much or how long we chit chatted, but I remember being absolutely shattered and trying to sleep as much as possible.
Laraine was riding a £100 Halfords road bike, described by one of the support crew as ‘heavier than the sun’ and I was riding Bob, the second-hand Carerra road bike that was probably just as heavy. The big boys with their expensive toys scoffed at our bikes, but our steeds got us along just as well (OK, just maybe not quite as quick). We shared stories of our endeavours into various sporting events without ever feeling prepared, like we had the right kit or were ‘one of those people’. Imposter syndrome, but both of us appeared to stick two fingers up to it and go do it anyway.
I think we rode together for a short time at the start of the France leg, but I headed off by myself for a bit before joining a peloton of about 8 who I’d stay with for the rest of the route. I heard later from the support crew that she’d been picked up by the sweep truck/broom wagon, but not before clocking up some serious mileage. I might have even seen or chatted to her, but its all a bit vague as I had head down, legs pedalling. Cycling just under 200 miles in 24 hours with hardly any sleep in the rain is pretty hard going and it’s all a bit of a blur.
Likewise the celebrations in Paris once we’d all finished were also blurred; at this point we’d pretty much been awake for well over 28 hours, biked all that way and had a few beers. I’m not sure we caught up again once we’d finished; I remember speaking to a fair few people in the bar, but so many people, so many faces and so many names.
Somehow, between then and now though, we’ve kept in touch. I can’t remember how exactly, whether it was Instagram or Facebook, or through another group or event when I realised she was the same Laraine from L2P24 but I’ve watched her life unfold over the last few years in absolute awe. A social media voyeur, I’ve seen her move her whole life from [somewhere in] England to a tiny little Scottish island called Eigg, which I’d never heard of before. Through her posts, I’ve learnt all about the little island, marvelled at her and her husband’s change in lifestyle from ‘normal’ jobs to owning an adventure company and wowed continuously at the scenery pictures.
Being able to follow the transition from ‘a kind of runner’ to badass ultra runner in the Scottish mountains has been a pleasure and a privilege; Laraine keeps it real. No contrived content, it’s actual, real life, relatable stuff about the highs and lows; the sun and the rain, the pleasure and the pain.
A couple of times over the last few years I’d planned on heading up to Eigg, a direct result of the Scottish scenery porn Laraine pimps out, but I never made it before I left the UK. It’s still on the list; one day.
I’m a bit of a fan girl; I have MASSIVE respect for women that build and big other women up, helping empower and build confidence. Not only is LWJ a fab role model to follow on social media, she set up a running group on the island to encourage others to run, as well as now running women’s running retreats. The epitome of when you love something, go do it and go share it.
The only limit to your impact is your imagination and commitment ~ Tony Robbins
She also has an awesome collection of waterproof sealskinz bobble hats, of which I am incredibly jealous.