Back in September 2017 my husband, Peter, decided it would be a great idea to challenge himself and he applied for a place in the Prudential RideLondon. He spent the next few months trying to persuade me to do the same! I caved in eventually and registered too and what a surprise when we got places. Bearing in mind that the closest we had been to bicycles was gentle pottering around the country lanes with our children, this was most definitely going to be a challenge.
The ride follows the Olympic course with 30,000 amateur cyclists taking on a cycling challenge like no other through London and Surrey on a similar route to that of the London 2012 Olympic Road Cycling Races. The Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 starts in Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, then travels through the capital and onto Surrey's stunning country roads and through the Surrey Hills (OMG!), before a spectacular finish (here's hoping!) on The Mall in central London.
Or, at least this is what is supposed to happen! And so the training began... 0-100 in five months!
To incentivise us when our energy and enthusiasm was flagging we decided to do this for a fantastic cause - MS-UK. We were doing this to raise funds for all those that are affected by MS and would, no doubt, love to be able to even ride a bike. We were particularly motivated by our lovely neighbour, Alex, who has been living with MS for about 10 years. She is still only young, never complains and is always seen with a big smile and enthusiasm for life. The fact that her husband takes her out on a tandem touched me and clinched the decision for the fundraising efforts. We have no excuse other than being overweight, unfit and generally lazy!
Training started in earnest in April (the event was scheduled for 29th July!) with a 7.7mile cycle, which was a struggle and made me realise we had our work cut out. Anyway, to assist with the motivation to continue, especially on the dark, damp days we decided to write some updates on our fundraising site (virginmoneygiving.com/JaneUnwin1) with the promise of more updates and Lycra clad photos for donations. The thought of Lycra clearly worked its magic as with every posting the funds began to creep up.
Whilst I use Facebook I am not savvy with other forms of social media, so all fundraising plugs were posted on Facebook only with promises to stop telling the world just how far we had cycled on any given day as soon as the event was over and we had reached our target of £1,000. Together with some gentle persuasion on family, friends and work colleagues we surpassed our target in a short space of time. I’m afraid with a fulltime job, three children and all the training our fundraising efforts were restricted to the aforementioned only. Oh, and my gorgeous Mum spoke to all her friends to tell them that her daughter had ‘lost the plot’ and 'committed to the most dangerous thing imaginable and really deserved to raise funds for participating in the event'. In fact my Mum’s donation was to try and convince us not to take part!
As the training progressed we decided to join a local, friendly cycle group called the Jersey Rouleurs. Turns out lots of concentration is required for group cycling as you need to watch the back wheel and feet of the person in front. A few more hills nailed and reassurance from Ride London veterans that we have it in the bag! We wished we shared their confidence, but anyway it was onwards and upwards. It was too late to back out now as the donations continued to pour in. The biggest motivation was all the people we would be letting down if we didn’t put in the hours required to participate and succeed.
Before we knew it the big day had arrived and despite the most appalling weather (never having cycled in the rain before, after 7.5 hours in it we are veterans) we did it! The months of training, the aches and pains, the arguments, the early mornings and the time commitments were all worth it. We now have a new hobby, healthier bodies and new friends but most importantly of all we have raised over £3,600 for such a worthy cause.
We felt very humbled to learn first-hand what a difference the fundraising makes. Our lovely friend, neighbour and inspiration for this adventure thanked us for our efforts and explained that without these donations her pain management would be a very different story.
I, personally, have never won a medal and am very proud of my achievements and want to thank Peter for his crazy suggestion, for challenging me, keeping me going when the going got tough and for staying with me when it mattered. Our mantra - “Team work makes the dream work” applies not only to us but to the organisers of the event, our donors and the amazing fundraising team at MS-UK who made us feel special and appreciated. Thank you!
If you are ever presented with a challenge and you have the ability to tackle it head on then go for it, but make it worthwhile for others as well. You will not regret your achievement and the feel good factor just knowing that your efforts have been invaluable to someone else.
Jane & Peter