Lands’ End to John O Groats: a journey for our friend
Sometimes, a personal bereavement can inspire people to fundraise in incredible ways as a celebration of the life of their loved one. This journey provided a cathartic experience for Mark and his partner Steve, who completed the unbelievable Lands’ End to John O Groats cycle challenge in memory of their friend Rob. The couple have raised over £10,000 in aid of our local mental health services, and we caught up with Mark to learn more about their inspirational 1,002 mile odyssey…
Tell us about the Lands’ End to John O Groats challenge
To be perfectly honest, we’d imagined that it was going to be the most physically, emotionally and mentally draining experience of our lives. However, our hard work in training really paid off and it was far less grueling than either of us expected. That’s not to say that it was easy. Every difficulty we experienced during the ride we managed to overcome with our expansive training and the memory of Rob spurring us on. The countryside as we travelled through the UK was outstanding. Every area had its own unique feel (we especially loved the West coast of Scotland). Cycling along the coast and the edge of the lochs with mountain scenery and pine forests as the backdrop, blue skies and sunshine is a memory that will stay with me forever.
What inspired you to complete the Lands’ End to John O Groats challenge for Manchester Mind?
We wanted to do a challenge in memory of our close friend Rob, who sadly lost his battle with mental health. Manchester was Rob’s home, and so we wanted to donate to a mental health charity local to him. It was important to do something immense to remember Rob, and as lovers of cycling, the outdoors and exploring we decided to take on one of the biggest challenges imaginable. We thought of doing something abroad, but felt keeping it close to home was the best way. I originally met Rob through Steve, who was one of his closest friends. Initially, after Rob’s passing, Steve wanted to do the challenge on his own. However, we decided to do it as a team, supporting each other through the highs and lows of training and the entire journey. Rob’s memory was essential in helping us get through the challenge – thinking of him throughout made us both smile and cry, but reminded us why we were there.
A lot of focus goes into the physical preparation for big challenges, but how do you prepare mentally?
Staying prepared, and working out the logistics helped Steve and I manage the anxieties, worries and stresses that come with a challenge so big. Giving ourselves little things to plan and look forward to throughout the trip (such as meeting people along the way or mapping out certain climbs and descents we would enjoy) helped break down the journey and make it seem less daunting. We memorized the route well, and trained for the specifics of the climbs, so that nothing came as a shock throughout the ride.
What challenges did you encounter?
After 3 or 4 days cycling, every muscle in our bodies was aching. Our sleep was disrupted from the excitement and rush of travelling so far each day. We met with family in Chepstow which really helped ground and motivate us to soldier on. After this period, our bodies almost went into auto-pilot and the cycle became less of a slog. With our fundraising, we also encountered some challenges. We started asking for donations nearly a year ago when we signed up, and probably the biggest hurdle was getting the ball rolling. With the cycle ride a year away, people were more reluctant to pledge their money. We asked close friends and family to make their donations early on so that we could start gaining momentum. Once it started, it felt like we couldn’t stop it! We got creative – Steve ran a session in his salon offering treatments to anyone who donated and we sold cakes with champagne. It was all good fun, and with our expansive professional networks we were able to spread the word and increase fundraising total to where it is now.
What have you learnt from the experience?
There are three key learnings I’ve taken from this experience.
- Firstly, the importance of preparation: this would have been a completely different experience without planning, and I don’t think we would have been able to complete it in the same way
- Secondly, the experience reminded me that Steve and I are an amazing team and we are there for each other when we most need it
- Finally, I’ve learnt about the generosity and kindness of strangers. Our amazing grand total was made possible by friends of friends and people we’d never met before. It was so touching to see names we didn’t recognize, or people we’d met only briefly donate to the page. It feels like such an incredible accomplishment to be able to say we raised £10,000 for this amazing charity
Mark and Steve’s page is still open if you’d like to donate to their inspirational challenge: