Idly reading a magazine one day, I came across an article about Cycle Jordan.
The challenge – to cycle across Jordan, visit the city of Petra and jeep across the Wadi Rum desert – was being run by the Genesis Research Trust and charity, whose Chairman is Professor Robert Winston and patron is the lovely Fern Britton.
The organisation was conducting research into miscarriages, still births, birth defects and women’s cancer – basically promoting a healthy pregnancy for mum and baby.
My kids had left home, my husband was away all the time with rugby and I was feeling the empty nest syndrome. So I decided to sign up!
Oh yes, this was going to be a one-off adventure for me, a midlife crisis as my family kindly called it…
In 2008 I had been diagnosed with endometriosis, a horrible condition where small parts of the lining of womb travel outside the womb and attach to ovaries, tubes etc, causing immense pain and infertility.
Subsequently I needed a full hysterectomy, but as I had two beautiful healthy kids, it felt like now was my time to help with fundraising for this charity and to give something to others less fortunate.
Taking on the world…
The whole adventure was amazing. I cycled across Jordan – about 350 miles – in searing heat, rough terrain and lots of steep hills.
I was in awe of all the women I met, some with sad stories, and the camaraderie and bonds of friendships made was something I knew would last a lifetime.
My cycling adventures didn’t end in Jordan, oh no, they continued across Vietnam and Cambodia, Central America, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and Zanzibar and then #Challenge57 was announced.
What is #Challenge57?
#Challenge57 is about Fern Britton being born in 1957, currently aged 57 and wanting to raise £57,000 for research into miscarriage.
All I had to do was cycle from John O’ Groats to Land’s End with Fern Britton and 23 other Genesis family members. Well, why not?!
We would be taking a route of over 1000 miles, keeping us off the busy roads. Other ladies joined us at different parts of the six stages of the route, some cycling for just one day.
I mean what was there to think about? It meant 22 days away from home just for me, a chance to cycle through Scotland, the Cotswolds, Lake District, Devon and Cornwall.
By the time I had finished the fundraising for #Challenge57, I had raised nearly £22,000 in total for the Genesis Trust over the years.
Arriving at John O’ Groats at the end of April was quite a shock. It was cold, dull and overcast as well as open and barren. But the next morning we all gathered excitedly under the famous JOG sign for photos, all raring to go not knowing what to expect.
It wasn’t far into the journey before the thick rain, sleet and bitter winds began. For the whole three weeks Mother Nature chucked everything she had at us, sleet, hail, wind, torrential rain, harsh road surfaces, steep hills… you name it.
But we survived.
I had hours cycling by myself, giving me time to reflect on my life and let my mind wander to wherever it wanted to go. It was utter luxury, no interruptions, just my own thoughts, my bike, beautiful scenery and an open road all for me.
During the evenings we all let our hair down and yes the wine flowed, and on some nights so did the whisky (well, we were in Scotland).
We laughed, we tried not to look at the maps for the next day showing huge undulations and we all slept very well but the 6am alarm always came and off we would go again.
Cycling into Glasgow and Manchester was an experience in the busy traffic but we all arrived safely. Our days off in these cities were most welcome and it gave us a chance to unwind, clean the bikes and get the washing done.
During the cycle we did quite a few amazing cycling climbs, up to Rest and Be Thankful in Scotland, a hard five-mile hill climb, and then along the cycle routes alongside Loch Lomond with amazing scenery.
We tried to cycle over Shap Summit, Mother Nature hit us again with 48 mph winds and many had to be rescued off the pass as they lay on top of light road bikes to stop them blowing away.
And at Bodmin we were hit again, this time with hail that made you get off your bike and turn away from the hail stones, they hurt so much.
Coming from Weston-super-Mare I was able to arrange a police escort into town to the local pier where many people, friends and family were waiting to greet us. It was a very strange and proud feeling for me cycling with my Genesis family on my own cycle routes into my hometown.
Next day we cycled through my local village Brent Knoll, where my 78 year old dad – still a regular cyclist – joined me for a few miles of the route. That was a lovely, special moment.
Accommodation varied from some nice hotels, a motorway services motel, to mainly basic hotels and hostels with bunk beds.
Each day presented us all with new challenges, new weather, new roads and always new memories made.
We arrived finally into Land’s End on 21st May 2015 to a large gathering of family, friends, and general public cheering us on. We had completed a total of 1107 miles, gone way past the fundraising target and raised over £150,000.
It was yet another Genesis family moment that will stay with me for life.
Definitely the hardest-ever cycle challenge I had done but oh so rewarding.
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