Apologies for the lack of updates – I’ve been seriously slacking on the running front. But whilst I haven’t been running a whole lot, there are a few other bits and pieces that have kept me busy!
A couple of weeks ago, I headed up to the North London Skydiving Centre (which should be renamed ‘really, really far north of London’ – it’s over an hour from the M25, in Cambridgeshire!) to do a tandem skydive.
First off, it’s true what they say – skydiving is an all-day event, as they can’t guarantee when, or even if you’ll jump; it all depends on the weather. Being England, the weather sucks, so we just had to hope for the best.
The morning started off foggy and cold, with seemingly no hope of clear skies. We registered at 8am and went through our training, which was fairly brief – they demonstrated the correct skydiving position, and got us to practice; they showed us the equipment and explained how it all worked (we also learned that the tandem harnesses cost £10,000 each!), and they gave us an overview of what would happen during the jump. We then got our drop number (‘drop’ being the group you head up with – a bit of a disconcerting word choice!) before grabbing some coffee and finding a comfy spot to wait it out.
We were drop 4, which meant we got to watch the earlier groups go. In theory, this was awesome; but to begin with, it really increased the nerves. When the first group were guided onto the plane, I almost got back in the car and headed home!
But by the time they got back to the airfield, and told us all how incredible it was, the nerves began to turn to excitement. Due to cloud cover, it wasn’t until about 15h30 that our group was called over to get suited up; and by that point, we were more than ready to go. The instructors tried to put us at ease in the plane by playing charades and joking around – almost enough to distract us from what was coming! (Ok, not really).
It took nearly 15 minutes to get to the drop site, and then it was showtime. I was told to scoot backwards onto my instructor’s lap (um, hello!), and then we started shuffling forwards – I was third to go, and oh my days, watching the people ahead of me slide over the side and disappear out of sight within a second or two was unreal. But before I knew it, I was being told to lean my head back, tuck my legs under the side of the plane (!), and then we were out.
Have you ever been on one of those fairground rides that are basically a vertical drop? Imagine that, and multiply it by a few thousand. With skydiving, there’s no real way to gauge your speed (unless, yknow, you look at the equipment) – all you feel is the initial acceleration (like the fairground ride), before your speed levels out and you’re just… floating. Well, not floating, but it almost feels like you are.
If you’re interested in trying out a skydive, I’ll tell you now: shouting OHMYGOD at the photographer during the 30-second freefall won’t leave you with much of an opportunity for flattering photos. Unfortunately, nobody warned me about this before I jumped. So I’ll do you a favour. To discourage you from making the same mistake, here’s what it looks like (hint – it’s not good!):
To make things worse, my instructor looks like a total dude in every single photo. Like, ‘Oh what? We’re freefalling at over 120mph? I hadn’t noticed!’ Also, yes, that IS the plane I jumped out of in the corner of the last photo. Turns out that you can fall a pretty long way in 30 seconds without a parachute. This was probably helped by the fact that the initial freefall speed (before the drogue parachute was deployed) was closer to 150mph. Insane!
Luckily, I managed to snap out of it just before the main parachute was pulled – giving me just enough time for 2-3 smiley photos, to prove that I did in fact LOVE IT:
Once the parachute was out, we had a good few minutes to enjoy the view. It would almost have been relaxing, had my instructor not piped up with ‘so, shall we try some spins?’ I mean, SPINS!? My first reaction was ‘HELL NO’, but it was actually really good fun. Each change in direction affected the g-force that you felt, so it seemed like we would speed up, pause, and speed up again. It’s actually really hard to describe – I guess you just have to experience it for yourself. (I seriously recommend it!!!)
Before I knew it, we were coming in to land (we were warned to tuck our legs up, as there was a risk of people breaking them if they didn’t – we were still travelling close to 20mph!) … And then it was over. Hugs and high fives all round – before I turned to the photographer and exclaimed, ‘I survived!!!‘
Note to self: Fine for the video, but again. Bad, bad photo.