One of the most frequent things I’ve heard said about heroes is that you should never meet yours. Apparently, they are only a disappointment when you meet them. Well last week I had the privilege of meeting someone who I watched in the sport I love beating some of the world’s best. His name is Steve Joughin.
For those of you who are cyclists you will probably know Steve as the 2-time British professional road champion, 1-time criterium champion and winner of most of the classic races on the British calendar. For those who aren’t cyclists and read this blog for the mental health side of things, Steve is a recovering alcoholic, something which he openly talks about in his autobiography and which we spent a long while talking about last week. Although on the face of it the two might seem to some incompatible, it’s interesting talking to Steve about the need for a buzz in life. Some of you will have read my piece in November about Bradley Wiggins. My conversations with Steve last week seemed to reinforce some of that thinking for me.
He described how cycling is an all-encompassing career, it can be lonely but that the rush of excitement and satisfaction from it is immense – especially when you keep winning things as Steve did. The only problem is that this doesn’t last forever. Every rider has their last race and what happens after that to replace that buzz can be very hard. In Steve’s case it led to alcoholism. In others it leads to other obsessions. And you don’t have to be a professional cyclist to suffer from that. So whilst I interviewed Steve for a book project that I have ongoing we developed a genuine bond over our own addictions and mutual recoveries. At no time did I feel I was teasing a story out of or being spun a yarn by Steve and equally I never felt that I was putting a burden on him explaining what I had been through. There was a mutual understanding, his generosity and kindness the first thing I have told people about our meeting.
So in a way this is a lesson for us all that we can need to watch our obsessions, that we can with hard work and determination get through the bad times and that we can offer something to others in those situations beyond platitudes. But it’s also my way of saying thanks to Steve – as a cyclist he was a role model, but after last week he is definitely a hero of mine. Maybe you can become one too.