There’s something wrong. My knee is painful and I can hardly walk, never mind run. It’s August and so far this year I had completed 2 half marathons, no end of shorter runs and contributed about 8 miles to the Chase the Sun coast to coast relay to raise funds for Restore. I went on holiday and ran the Pembrokeshire cliff tops with Matthew and less than a week later, out of the blue I’m brought to a grinding halt. I was booked in for the York 10k in August and the Langdale Half Marathon in October. Would I recover in time? Not a hope of completing the York 10k but October seemed a long way off.
Physiotherapists concluded that the pain was caused by a cartilage issue and I started a sequence of rest, ice, exercises, X-rays, until slowly the pain subsided enough to cycle and then jog. But not in time for the half marathon in the Lakes. I’m still in recovery and advised not to book the Coventry half marathon scheduled for spring next year. So until then I’ll slowly increase my distance and pace in anticipation of a full recovery.
I did have a fear that the physio would give me a stern talking to about doing too much at my age, and that I should just take things easy from now on. But on the contrary, they are all keen to get me back to fitness and fully engaged in running. I’m up for that.
It winds across 170 miles of some of Britain’s most spectacular countryside. The new Way of the Roses Cycle Route has just opened and I’m itching to get into the saddle to conquer it.
The route passes through places that are deeply embedded in my life – Ripon and York, places where I have lived and now live. The roads outlined in yellow on the map are both familiar and new. I have probably traversed the whole route at one time or another – but never strung together in one long trek from the Irish Sea to the North Sea. Altogether it looks to be better than the C2C which in my experience loses it’s charm as it crosses some of the more industrialised parts of county Durham and on to the sea. The Roses in contrast skirts the Yorkshire Wolds and heads towards Bridlington in its closing miles.
I have another reason to face the challenge of the ride. I am involved in setting up a new charity to provide homes for homeless people in York. It’s a daunting and challenging project in itself, but we need to some seed funding until it becomes self sustaining. At a meeting to form the charitable trust this week I raised the prospect of riding the Way of the Roses, and the challenge was immediately picked up by my relatively new friend Ed Hambleton. Ed and I separately had the vision to provide housing and support for homeless people and were brought together when, in the same week, we contacted Green Pastures Housing for some help and guidance. That was at the end of last year. Now we are working together with other Christians in York to breath life into the vision.
So expect another invitation to visit a giving website and donate to our cause.
One thing puzzles me about the Way of the Roses route. Next to the village of Clapham just off the A65 there’s a puzzling warning. “Steep hill, poor surface, pedestrians, children, dogs and dark tunnels” Just what awaits us there?
I love this bike even when it’s standing in the hallway awkwardly folded up with it’s wheels side by side. I had to leave it at the cycle shop earlier this week because a spoke in the back wheel had broken. I was loaned a Giant Expression full sized bike to keep me mobile, but when I collected my orange Dahon this morning it was like being reunited with an old friend.
I had briefly thought perhaps I should change the folder for a “proper” bike, but sitting back in the saddle this morning I just felt right. Welcome home old friend! Perhaps you should have a name?
Amazing, fantastic, exhilarating, enjoyable, strenuous. Just some of the words I’ve used as people have asked me how the C2C ride went.
Many are surprised that I’m suffering no after effects from the ride, but to be honest it’s not really the marathon people think it is. I’ve talked to several people since Friday who have also completed the ride – just a few among the twenty thousand who complete it each year.
If you were one of the people who sponsored me I am really grateful for your support. You may like to consider giving regularly to either of the charities I was representing.
Riding Lights Theatre Company has a membership scheme for regular givers. It offers a number of benefits as well as the confidence that you are supporting a very special professional and Christian Theatre Company.
The Funzi and Bodo Trust is engaged in long term projects in those communities on the south eastern coast of Kenya. Regular support allows them to plan their educational and medical projects with confidence.
If you didn’t sponsor me it’s not too late. The Justgiving sites are still open for business. Click on the links and you can join in to help.
Where to next for me and my machine? I’d love to do John O’Groats to Lands End but that would carve a huge hole in my diary. Possibly Liverpool to Hull – I’d need to borrow a hybrid bike for that one because of the many off road sections. Be sure I’ll let you know when it’s being planned.
Thank you for following my adventure – I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did. The memories will stay with me for a long time. One thing I discovered as I drove my bike upwards in the Pennines. Singing is a great way to control breathing on the inclines. So if you were somewhere near the summit of Hartside or Black Hill and thought the local chapel was having a choir practice it was possibly me belting out hymns and songs of praise in the strange rhythm my panting heart demanded. I can recommend it – not just on the hills. Singing is good for you – body, soul and spirit. Especially if you have someone to praise for your very existence.
In the guide I was using, today’s ride was “mainly downhill” and there is one of those gradient maps that seemed to confirm it. Choosing the road exit from Rookhope to Stanhope I turned left to face a gruelling climb. Crawleyside Bank. I confess I pushed the bike up the steepest section. Despite a 100% record of staying in the saddle up to this point my mind was not engaged for this challenge. The rest of the incline up to the start of what’s known as the Waskerey Way was fine as the views opened out onto the now familiar North Pennine Landscape.
The start of the Waskerley Way
It was a fascinating ride all the way to Consett and then it became a pursuit for the coast. The bits and pieces of off road cycle track created a rather unsatisfying ride for most of the way with just short glimpses of open country. The old tracks were often dusty and dirty with loose surfaces that made riding a chore. I longed for the open roads of the previous days.
As the Stadium of Light came into view I was aware of a soggy back tyre – a slow puncture. I inflated it determined to get to the finish before changing the tube. Just as the last of the air leaked out I dipped my front wheel in the North Sea near Roker Pier. I was home. The cycle computer read 143 miles.
Dipping in the North Sea
I still had to wind my way back to Chester-le Street for the train home. The computer read 158 miles as I sat on the platform there.
It had been a good ride, I felt sad that it was over and that the next few days would be saddle free. I enjoyed the freedom of the open road and the challenge of it all. Not once did I have to toil up hill in the pouring rain wondering why I was doing this, the weather was ideal.
So at the end I’m thankful to God for answering the prayer of the first day and to all my sponsors who grew in numbers as the ride went on.
If you want to donate or check on the latest totals here are the links