Montana or Bust

Being the story of an old fat-knacker who decides to take on a challenge, like he used to 20 years ago


The background to How to Spend it magazine’s article Ain’t No Montana High Enough, published on 2nd June 2018.

Man in a Palm Tree (2).jpg

Likely as not you came to this ‘Training Journal’ about IGO in Montana via an article in the FT’s glossy magazine How to Spend it. If not, you can see it at the link above. However, the seamless experience of reading a crafted piece of writing gives very little inkling of how much scurrying around there is to get ready for an event like this. Nor how often you feel like the village idiot in doing so… And that’s before any fitness training has even begun.

But it happened, as the article can attest. IGO Montana 2017, a four day challenge, with four to eight hours of exertion each day, held in the backwoods of Montana, in the hills and forests around Glacier National Park. Sports included running, swimming, mountain-biking and paddling. It was an escape to the wilderness, full of physical endeavour, exploration, survival… well, not really, because although the sporting activity is as demanding as you care to make it, the down time at IGO events is rather comfortable. It’s one of their key characteristics. There was even beer and wine, on an honour system.

Challenges like these start with a dream of course, whether you’re up for the adventure itself, or in my case what seems like a cool piece of work (yes, it’s unfeasible, I know, but I call trundling along in pursuit of youth, occasionally ahead of them, in this sort of event work). But they hover on the horizon of the mind these events, unfocused but intensely alluring, urging you on - a modern-day call of the wild.  And eventually you say ‘Ok, I’ll do that’. Or at least in my case, an editor eventually says ‘Ok, you do that’ (though the commissioning process can be pretty tortuous, altogether), and I start to put the whole thing in train. And then, given the usual time-scale, of a few weeks left to get in shape for a massive physical endeavour, I panic about fitness.

Turns out, with IGO there is a bit more of a system (and an even longer time-scale) than for most events. The organisers feel that today’s potential adventurer wants to prepare themselves a bit more thoroughly than an old knacker like me ever did back in the day, so they have a series of steps to help you get ready for the challenge – they recommend a visit to a doctor, a physio specialising in bio-mechanics (running, basically), a swim coach if you want one, even a performance coach. And so, to understand how it all works, I underwent the full programme.

Which I shall describe over the coming weeks. Including how I learned to run again, in post-modern style and, by the bye, finally grew up, and turned from jovial fattie to a lean and hungry machine (not).