A road trip up to meet a good mate in Knutsford in October 2013 led to a little more than I had bargained for! October 19th has a lot to answer for...
Brendon moved up to Knutsford a few years ago with his girlfriend for jobs and every now and again, sadly not as often as I'd like, we head up for a reunion and several beers. This time round we happened to come across a sign depicting the distances to Land's End and John O'Groats and so the challenges began, and men being men with a few beers and a bit of bravado we ended up agreeing to take on the challenge......but that was the beer talking wasn't it?
Well in truth this wasn't an idle drunken chat, in fact, apart from the sign, a recent 101 mile cycle ride around the New Forest had me inspired, so taking on a bigger challenge seems logical, after all, I'd cycled 101 miles surely we could do it repeatedly over 10 days to cross the entire island we live on couldn't we?
Not only was it about a big challenge, it was something far bigger than that. I've spent countless hours supporting other people on marathons, half marathons, fun runs and more besides all of them raising money for someone special or for a worthy cause. I've gladly filled out the JustGiving or VirginMoneyGiving pages and offered words of support, but all the time I've felt a gnawing inside me to take on a major challenge myself and dedicate it to people whose spirit and courage has inspired me, so know's my chance.
I'll no doubt speak more about them later, but for now I'll give you a very brief few words on two people I hope will give me some of their courage in order to face up to 950 miles of grueling punishment and get me to pedal harder when my body aches and I just want to stop.
First off is my dad. My first memory of him was as a young naval officer who had joined the Royal Navy from school and climbed through the ranks to lieutenant. When I was young he was a giant, tougher than anyone, I vividly recall our pet dog falling in to a steep sided pond on the common in Southampton, I was full of panic thinking he would drown, but he reached over and hauled Sam up to the bank to save him - wow, what a hero.
Sadly as you get older you start to realise that your parents aren't the indestructible forces of nature you thought they were, my dad was no exception. As I neared the end of my school years multiple sclerosis started to take hold, leading to him being discharged from the Royal Navy and progressively becoming more disabled. Although the days of him saving drowning dogs and proudly wearing that smart uniform were gone, his courage and spirit were never broken, he fought that disease every step of the way, he did not give up, he got cross and angry at times and it made life tough, ending it too early before he turned 60 a few years ago. As I said before, if I can draw on some of that courage, cycling all that was will be easy compared to the suffering he had to endure.
Secondly is Lisa, who I really got to know through my wife. I will not write so much about Lisa in the post, but I will later. Save to say Lisa battled illness that ended her life to early too. Not only did she battle cyctic fibrosis with inspirational courage and bravery, but so did her amazing husband, family and friends.
I'm sure I have waffled on too much for now, but there is plenty more to come about my dad, Lisa, the ride and all the preparation, I hope you will stick with me for it, in the meantime here is the link to our sponsorship site and below some photos from that fateful weekend in October 2013
Brendon (L), Gareth and myself (R) under that damn sign!
A close up of the sign!