I’m standing at the top of a hill in Richmond Park with four new friends, about to embark on a microadventure. The plan is to cycle from the confines of the city until we are surrounded by the Surrey countryside, to eat, drink and be merry, then sleep under the stars. It’s about 15 miles to the country pub where we’ll have dinner, and we’re armed with tents and Bivvy Bags – we’ve no idea where we’ll sleep, but with bellies full of food and ale we’ll seek out a quiet spot under the blanket of night. We’ll then watch the sun rise and be back at our desks in the morning.
Our little trip has been organised by Anna McNuff, an irrepressible bundle of enthusiasm who recently cycled all 50 US states. In real life she works as a marketing consultant. The rest of the group are Laura Penhaul, a physiotherapist who is one quarter of Coxless Crew, an all-female four hoping to row the Pacific Ocean in 2015, Sophie Radcliffe, aka Challenge Sophie, an Ironwoman and lover of hard-won fun and adventure, and Jo Pickard, a TV presenter, producer and actor. Jo doesn’t even own a bike. She arrives with her beautifully styled hair, the most glamorous among us, unable to contain her excitement because we’re about to have an adventure on an otherwise normal mid-week evening. We’re all ordinary women really, who choose to do extraordinary things.
Micro-adventure is the brainchild of Alastair Humphreys, round-the-world cyclist and adventurer extraordinaire. Tired with people saying, “I don’t have time to go on an adventure,” he came up with the concept of fitting adventure into daily life. “We are defined by our ‘9-to-5’ but what about the 5-to-9…?” Al asks on his website. “Too busy, too broke, too unfit…” – these excuses don’t mean much when it comes to microadventure. What would you choose to do? We choose to cycle into the sunset.
We nearly don’t make it before the pub stops serving food. We nearly get trapped on the wrong side of a road block. We nearly get stung by an electric fence trying to find our camping spot. We nearly get found by the farmer. We’re tired the next day. But none of this matters – we did it, something unusual, something exciting, something daring. The next day my colleagues asked me what I did last night as I hang my dew-sodden sleeping mat out to dry. “I cycled into the sunset then camped in a field” I reply. How often do you get to say that?