Starting at 12:30pm on Friday 15th July four intrepid, some would say plain bonkers, friends from Newbury will attempt to ride 500km (300 miles) in 24 hours in aid of Eight Bells for Mental Health. The four – Sean Bird, Martin Colston, Rog Davis and Bart Kuijten – all met through Team Kennet Triathlon and have raced together for many years. Last year they challenged themselves to ride the fearsome Dragon Devil ride in the Brecon Beacons: 300km (190 miles) with 5,000m of climbing, and they had no idea whether they would be able to make it. In the end they completed the course after 15 hours (including meal stops) and all thought that was as crazy as it got.
With not enough to do during all the Covid restrictions around Christmas, Rog started wondering… If we managed 300km in 15 hours, could we manage 500km in 24 hours? And the rest of us immediately said we’d love to give it a go. Over the last 6 months we’ve all been training hard. Rog and Martin recently spent 4 days cycling in the French Alps, covering over 400km and climbing a total of over 9,000m. Meanwhile Bart and Sean have been testing themselves running and in June they each completed the South Downs Way 100 mile race in 20 and 26 hours respectively, which is quite amazing. So between the four of them they’ve cycled a lot and experienced pushing on through the night, but none have yet done all those things on a bike.
It’s hard to visualise quite how far 500km is, so maybe this map will help. It shows a circle with a radius of 500km / 300 miles from Newbury. So it could take you to Scotland, Ireland, Wales, Northern Ireland, Ireland, France, Belgium or the Netherlands. And if you stretched it to 520km you could get to Edinburgh, Luxembourg or Germany. It’s a looooong way!
Clearly it’s a huge physical challenge to ride 500km in 24 hours, but the real battle will be a mental one. We have a 100km loop starting and finishing in Newbury and going through Lambourn, Ashbury, Wantage, Upton, Streatley, Pangbourne, Woolhampton and Thatcham; with each loop involving 870m of climbing. After each loop there will be a short pit stop to eat, refill with energy drinks and food to eat on the next loop, stretch etc before heading out again. We will get more fatigued, more tired and more uncomfortable with each successive lap and the temptation to call it quits at the end of laps 3 and 4 will be hard to resist. And lap three and half of lap four will be in the dark.
The mental challenge makes our chosen charity – Eight Bells for Mental Health – really appropriate. It is also one of the Mayor of Newbury's charities for this year, so we’re delighted that we will be waved off on our way by the Mayor from the Friends Meeting House where Eight Bells meet on a Friday. Your donation will initially go to the Mayor's Benevolent Fund and will be transferred from there to Eight Bells. Covid and now the cost of living crisis are putting more and more people under huge stress and the need for mental health support has never been greater. Martin knows from personal experience of clinical depression back in the late 1990s how important effective treatment and support is, and so this is a cause close to his heart.