“Sorry Sir, you’re too fat to skydive”
While I don’t think these were the exact words the young woman behind the counter told me on Monday 7th May 2018.
I had decided earlier in the year I would do two events this year to raise money for Downs Syndrome – a 100-mile running race in 24 hours and a skydive, something I had always wanted to do.
So I signed up and started training, I knew I was overweight but had three months to lose about 2 stone – easy I am very much like Ricky Hatton, when I have a goal and target I can lose the weight, when not training for a race I tend to let myself go a little bit – but I wasn’t worried, done it before and can do it again.
I increased my running and swimming (after all I am training for a 100-mile race) and the weight started to drop, in fact, it had dropped below the 224 lb limit about 2 weeks before the jump.
The problem came when I then visited Madrid for a conference and maybe enjoyed a little bit too much food and alcoholic beverages over the week.
I wasn’t massively over and thought I could do it.
The day before the jump I had a half marathon to do, and in some of the hottest conditions I have ever raced in, I managed somehow to get a PB at that distance- knocking about 4 minutes of my previous best, so was confident I would be underweight.
Then the next morning, I got up with the family and headed to the jump location – which was only about 35 minutes away. Once there I got weighed to be told”
“Sorry sir, you are too heavy to jump, let me speak with my manager”. She came back a few minutes later and said there was nothing she could do but would be rebook me onto another day in a few months.
I was over the weight limit by 0.8kg.
I said nope, three weeks, I just need three weeks, so she booked me back in for Monday 28th May.
As I drove away from the most embarrassed I had ever been I set myself the goal of losing half a stone in three weeks.
I was already planning on upping my milage anyway and swimming distance as I needed to, but made some serious changes to my diet.
I cut out virtually all bread for three weeks, cut down the number of bacon sandwiches I have, reduced my portion size.
This and the increase exercise meant I had drop over the target and closer to ¾ of a stone in three weeks.
Any thing is possible when I put my mind to it.
This time there were no issues with my weight, just the skies.
It was a very misty morning and while I was the first to register and in theory jump, I didn’t get kitted up till around 10 and then we still had about another 30/40 minutes waiting outside before we got the green light. I had my briefing at 8:30 and should have gone up about 9 am.
Even at this stage, I wasn’t scared, I will link to a Will Smith Video below, but it makes perfect sense what he said.
Even boarding the plane I wasn’t too worried, but once we got seated I knew there was no turning back and I started to get worried.
I knew half the plane was jumping out at 10,000 feet and then we would climb up to 15,000 feet and jump.
I was looking out of the window and thought we are pretty high now, must be close to the 10,000 feet mark – then my tandem partner tapped me on my shoulder to say we had just gone over 1,000 feet – I was going 15 times this height – the higher we got the more nervous and scared I became but I don’t think I ever really gave much thought to dropping out.
Don’t say No
While we had around the time on the ground, I was stood chatting with my partner and a few of the other jumpers and instructors.
We got talking about past experiences and my guy said clearly, the only word you can’t say in the door is NO, I have to turn back. Say whatever else you want, just not no, someone had previously said no and the instructor still jumped and injured the person and the person sued, so now instructors don’t jump if you say no (he did say at one point even if you are still technically sat in the plane you pass the no turning back point and have to jump).
Back in the air and climbing we were soon at 10,000 feet and I saw the other jumpers go, but we carried on up.
My instructor was amazing, talking to me every step, telling me what would happen and keeping me calm and relaxed. A true professional.
Soon the light went from red to green giving us the green light to go. I bum shuffled to the door and was just getting into position thinking, WTF am I doing and we was out, for the first 3 seconds it was the most terrifying thing I have ever done and then after that it all went bliss, the fear just went and I really started to enjoy it, the freefall then last for about 50 seconds and I thought the cameraman was giving me instructions to do, but when we landed it turns out it was just his way of moving about, so I should have ignoed him, you can kind of see me in the video doing weird hand movements.
I was trying to follow the instructions as obviously I didn’t want to do something wrong, and then the parachute opens suddenly going from about over 100 mph to nothing is quite painful.
We then glided back down to earth, the feeling of floating down, having a chat is weird. You can just talk naturally.
I was then able to see my shadow on top of a cloud, my shadow on top of a cloud. It’s weird jsut writing that let alone seeing it.
Going through the clouds was a weird feeling, I didn’t know what to expect, but it was fine and we was soon through them.
Then it was just a steady float back to earth and time for me to make my one big mistake, my legs wasn’t quite flat enough on landing and we hit a small bump sending them under my legs, had we been going a bit faster, it might have meant a break but I am fine.
That 4-5 minutes has to be one of the best of my life. The adrenaline rush was just something I can’t describe.
Due to the cloud cover, I couldn’t see so far, but I will be back to jump again. In fact already looking at getting it in as soon as possible.
I think I might have just found a new hobby (sure the wife will love me saying this part).
The Jump is below.
The Will Smith Video I watched with convinced me I needed to do the jump is here, its well worth watching if you are unsure if skydiving is for you.
If you would like to sponsor me you can here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/andrew-halliday7