Why you should get back in the commuter grove


Joanna Farmer does her 20-mile commute for the first time since October... and heart surgery. Here, she gives us a good reminder why we should get back on it, too

It’s not even 6am yet, but I’m alert with nerves because I’m starting my bike to work again. It’s my first commute since October – bear with me, I’ll explain why – and it’s never a great journey. Bedford to Milton Keynes, 20 miles and most of it uphill, potholed and lonely.

It’s an uninspiring morning – grey, chilly and damp. My rucksack weighs a ton and I wonder what’s crammed inside that I can’t do without. Knickers, food and a sturdy lock – what else does a woman need?

I can’t escape a niggling doubt that somewhere along the line I’ve forgotten to bring my trousers… I’ve got a staffing meeting at 9:30am and can’t turn up in sweaty tights or nude from the waist down.

My rice pudding breakfast sits high in my chest, so I’m willing that energy into my bloodstream to power my legs for the next hour. I just can’t afford – in time or confidence – for anything to go wrong on this journey today...

I’ve done this journey a hundred times, but not since I had heart surgery back in October. I’m still feeling nervous and vulnerable riding on my own and I know there’s a big test up ahead.

As I turn into Wootton, I'm reminded that there’s a great reward for getting up and outdoors this early. Every sunrise is worth seeing. Every new day brings a new way to see the world. And I might not get a puncture after all...

I mark my journey by milestones: the end of my road, the rushing river at Bromham, alpacas, pigs, and the bridge over the M1… As I pass each one, the chance of me turning back and getting in the car diminishes. I’m already halfway there and facing Marston Hill. Sounds a like ‘Bastard Hill’?

Yup, and not only because it’s long and narrow and involves close uphill passes from buses and lorries. It’s because without fail, some bastard on an ebike will cruise past me. 

I can’t escape a niggling doubt that somewhere along the line I’ve forgotten to bring the trousers

I reach the top at Cranfield with a real feeling of elation. Not only have I notched up some important uphill training, but it’s literally downhill all the way to work from here.

Cranfield sits on a plateau and I wonder which came first, this town or Richard Dreyfus’ flat-topped pile of mashed potato in Close Encounters of the Third Kind. I wonder if the aliens will land here one day and see Milton Keynes spread out as I do now. They might enjoy the snowdome or the vast indoor shopping centre…

As my thoughts wander, the miles melt away and I’m suddenly at work. There’s a strike over pensions today. A long line of cars wait to cross the picket line, but I roll right through, grabbing a leaflet as I go like a pro grabbing a bidon from a soigneur.

The showers are cold and as I step out in front of the full-length mirror, my whole body is pink but I’m tingling. I realise that this is the first time in weeks that I have arrived at work without a sense of dread about the day ahead, without thinking about it on my journey. I’m energised. I sit at my desk, log on and know that I’ve already achieved something.

Oh, and I remembered my trousers.

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