Why bikes beat the Eurostar
Posted Tuesday 5 October 2010
Back in April, my housemate Antonia and I signed up to the London to Paris cycle challenge in aid of Mind: she’s into cycling and I work in the media team at Mind, so we figured that between us this would be an ideal adventure.
Before you could say ‘sacré bleu Paris is a long way away!’ it was September and we were in a foggy car park in Crystal Palace at 6am with 132 other cyclists embarking on a 300 mile, four day adventure to the French capital… and I’m very pleased to say, we made it!
To my surprise, I loved the experience and can quite confidently say it was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life – ever.
When we first signed up, the fundraising terrified me. How was I going to raise the minimum sum of £1,300? But I have been astounded and humbled by people’s generosity, and with a bit of creative emailing (and limb sponsoring!) this was overcome.
Next I had to actually train… When I signed up, I’d not really cycled since I was a teenager, and though I was fairly fit, it turns out that cycling’s a bit different to running! I bought Tigger, my beloved road bike, and started cycling with friends at weekends. After much convincing from a few colleagues I also took up commuting by bike, and I have to say I now wonder what I did before biking to work and begrudge any days when I have to get on public transport rather than speeding round the streets on two wheels.
Then the final fear struck me – mechanical failure. Two weeks before we set off for Paris a very patient friend came round to educate Antonia and I in the art of fixing a puncture and changing an inner tube. Good timing, because right before our departure I got five, yes FIVE punctures in a week. I was not happy, but I managed to stick Tigger back together (and got very quick at it too!). On the trip I only got one flat, luckily.
The cycle was so well organised, thanks to Mind’s fabulous events team and the crew at Skyline. For four days, life is a simple existence of pedaling from hotel to water stop, to lunch, to water stop, to hotel – all the while following neon pink arrows through the rolling countryside. It was the perfect balance of tough yet achievable exercise, and the sense of fulfillment at the end of each day was immense (even if we were in pain!).
The best thing was the camaraderie on the trip: I made some great friends I know I will stay in touch with. Some were riding for Mind and it was awe-inspiring to hear their stories; others knew nothing about us yet were really interested to hear about Mind’s work, which made me feel so proud of what we all do.
So the morals of this story are as follows:
- Signing up for a big challenge is the best way to make yourself do it.
- Fundraising is not as impossible as you’d imagine.
- The amount of exercise you do training for something like this will make you feel on top of the world.
- Oh – and Northern France is NOT flat!!!
I’m now well and truly bitten by the challenge bug – bring on Grim Challenge!
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