Our participants have many different motivations for taking on their challenge. We hear remarkable stories along the way on why people are trekking through Jordan or climbing Mount Kilimanjaro. So this week we wanted to share this awe inspiring story of how Big John came to us for his first challenge.
Out of the blue…
In spring 2009, out of the blue, my girlfriend was diagnosed with a terminal brain tumour and given a year to live. She wanted to make the most of that time and her friends and I made her the centre of our attention until we lost her in November 2010.
She was a great sportswoman, coach and teacher who wanted each of us to have something to aim for to fill the aching space after she had gone. In August one Sunday afternoon we were reading the papers when she piped up and said “you should do that” which is how, 15 minutes later at the age of 59 and not being near a bicycle since I was in my teens, “very Big John” found himself signed up for the 2011 Big Heart Bike Ride in Tanzania.
Buying a bike and getting started was an experience. There were so many levers to pull and gears to change compared to what I could remember and I had to get fit! That didn't mean that I needed to train like an Olympian but I did need to spend a gradually increasing amount of time in the saddle. Less than a year later I was riding in the African bush even though I still could not claim to have mastered the gears and mechanics. She was a wise woman and knew that the training, fundraising and commitment required would give me a sense of purpose when I might otherwise have become melancholic and depressed and just drifted through the days.
I caught the action challenge bug…
Since then I have caught the challenge bug. I have tried to do one action challenge each year. September 2012 saw me trek Kilimanjaro for Cancer Research.
In November 2013 I completed the Big Heart Bike Ride in Jordan followed a week later by another ride in South Africa for a disability charity called Regain and in February 2015 I finished the Big Heart Bike Ridein Rajasthan, which raised £250,000 for the British Heart Foundation.
I have walked in the streets of the ancient cities of Jerash and Petra in Jordan. Through the Taj Mahal and Amber Fort in India. All in the company of great people, many of whom have become friends and taken part in more than one challenge with me. I have raised nearly £20,000 for the various charities that I have supported and had a lot of fun doing so.
Big John will ride again…
As I write this it is less than a year to the 2016 BigHeart Bike Ride in Tanzania and the 2017 Big Heart Bike Ride Cambodia to Vietnam is looming on the horizon. I am signed up for both and, god willing, not quite as “Big John” will be riding again. I hope to see many other veterans on these trips as well as many first timers.
From the moment we arrive at Heathrow looking for any other likely or unlikely cyclists, to the moment when we all go our separate ways with vivid memories and shared experiences. Each challenge is different and takes on its own character. They are very intense, physically and emotionally but not impossibly so.
Laughter and tears...but all worth it!
I admit to shedding tears of joy and frustration on more than one occasion, laughing all day long at the antics and tales of the Peloton and being genuinely stunned by the individual stories and diverse motivations for people being on the ride.
I am not sure I would claim my experiences have been life changing, even though for some I am sure they may well be, but they are definitely life affirming so if you are thinking about taking on a challenge you should absolutely sign up.
As the German philosopher Goethe once said “whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius and magic and power in it. Begin it now.” So see you at Heathrow one day soon.
Feel inspired? To find out more about Dream Challenges events please visit the website or contact us directly: