One of our members is cycling the length of France for charity in September, here’s his take on it.
So, another day, another charity cycle! It seems that almost every week we hear or read about someone doing a charity run, ride, swim or walk. Only last week the local Ely paper even featured a lady on the front page preparing to undergo a charity head shave, while inside was another story of a gentleman taking on a cycle challenge of his own, all in aid of good causes.
Some might tire of hearing about these endeavours, but really we should embrace and encourage it as much as we can. Of course people can’t be expected to give to charity all the time, but the willingness of many to ‘take up arms’ in support of their communities and of those in need is an uplifting reflection of the human empathy we possess. It is something that is too often forgotten, and sorely needed in challenging times.
The seeds of my challenge were sown when I first heard about Eddie Izzard’s 43 marathons in 51 days for sports relief. When I heard about it, I had to re-adjust my radio. I still struggle to believe that is possible for anyone, let alone a regular non-athlete with little or no training. What he did pushed the very limits of human physical endurance. But not for an athlete, for an ordinary guy. I have absolutely no intention of copying him, and many would say what he did was a touch foolhardy, but he did give us an indication of what even the ordinary man could be capable of. Later I heard about similar exploits by an ordinary girl, Helen Skelton. After she canoed the length of the Amazon, she went about biking to Antarctica and it was when I saw the insane bike that had been built for her for that task that I really started to think, “wow, it is incredible what people can do, I should try something like this.”
When I say “like this” mind you, I didn’t mean like any of that! But at least something. Something a bit more ‘do-able’ but which would still be a real challenge, would make people sit up and say was worth supporting. That’s when the idea just popped into my head. I would cycle through France, all the way, from the top to the bottom. So I put it up on Facebook, and said “right, who’s coming?”
I got one willing response! But that was all it needed really, and the challenge was set. Looking for as short a route as possible, my friend Nigel and I decided to cycle south to north, from Montpellier to Dieppe. Our route works out at around 1000km and requires an average daily ride of about 70km to complete in two weeks. If you have ever done one of the London to Cambridge rides, it’s a bit like doing that every day for a fortnight. Clearly there will be shorter days and longer days, not least when tackling the Cevennes and Ardeche mountains climbing out of Montpellier. Courtesy of the excellent route planning website routeyou.com, we have been able to plan each stage and to see the gradients and ascents involved in each stage. Day 2 in particular looms large in my mind, from Ales to Villefort. It involves a 1000m total ascent over about 50km.
My own fitness levels and endurance capabilities are something of an unknown to me. I’m not a fitness fanatic by any means. All I really do is commute between 8 and 12 miles a day. Pulling my 4 year old on a child seat up Back Hill and Cherry Hill park has been quite useful training, as was London to Brighton through the night earlier this month, a regular type of ride organised by a slightly batty bunch who only do organised night time rides out to the coast. But I have no doubt that nothing I’ve done before will be the same as what I’m undertaking here, and that there will be dark days when I have to think of what others have achieved, and of course, of the charity I’m riding for and all the people who have already pledged money to sponsor me. I’m riding for Rowan Humberstone, a small social enterprise I came across through a previous job working with charities in and around Cambridge. They do fantastic work with disabled people from across the county, supporting them to create wonderful creative artwork of all kinds by commission and for sale, helping their students to achieve great things and live fulfilling lives. They have to be mostly self funding and receive little in the way of public money. Organisations like this, that dedicate themselves to improving the lives of others, need every running, swimming, cycling, head shaving endeavour possible to carry on their vital work.
As of now, a week before our 2nd September departure, I have raised £500 (some of that from the kind folk of Ely Cycle Campaign!) but I’d love to reach and exceed my £1,000 target. Donations can be made online at the below address or by scanning the QR code with a smartphone which will take you to the same site. Once you’ve donated, you’ll be sent a link to the Facebook page for the trip, where you’ll be able to track progress, see pictures and so on. Thanks for all your support!