Well, we did it. On Sunday some friends and I cycled from Manchester to London. It was in aid of Ambitious About Autism.* And to see if we could.
350 kilometres. 18 hours start to finish. 7,300 calories burned. Phew!
Looking back it had all the makings of a classic Hero’s Journey, beginning with a “call to adventure” from my friend Simon Mottram, CEO of Rapha and dad of Oscar who lives with autism. Crossing the threshold at 0630 in the morning in the Manchester Velodrome. In the rain, naturally. It had the ups and downs of a classic hero’s epic – mostly ups. My Garmin tells me we climbed 2453 metres. I don’t what that is in double decker busses but it felt like a lot!
And you can’t do a heroic journey without allies. Dorothy had the Lion, Tin Man and Scarecrow. I had Rufus, John, and Andy. Gentlemen, I absolutely couldn’t have made it without you.
Then of course, you need a nemesis, a worthy opponent, to drive the story forward. Well, the distance was quite an opponent in itself. Then there was the rain. And more rain. And fatigue. And getting lost in the peak district and losing a precious hour amid the goats and gravel.
But woven through all that, the moments of joy, the laughter, the swearing (!), the beauty of England, bursting from a disused railway tunnel to find yourself looking out over the majesty of Derbyshire, the relief of getting to the halfway point (see picture) and snaffling the last, delicious sausage roll…
A Hero’s Journey ends with a return to the ordinary world. Thanks to our lost hour and late start we knew we wouldn’t make it to the Olympic Velodrome before the midnight cut off. So, instead we cycled home, our last five miles with a police escort down the A1(M)! That’s a whole story in itself. And greeting my lovely wife Jo at 12.15 at Finchley tube I felt truly triumphant. (I only just noticed the sign saying “Dreams” in the background. Very synchronistic. Very Street Wisdom.)
The Hero is supposed to be changed by their journey and to return with lessons to share. Here are three.
1. My mind (and maybe yours) has very little idea of what the body can achieve. Despite all my mental concerns about stamina and what cyclist call ‘bonking’, the final third of the ride I was at my strongest. Who knew?
2. Your performance is completely affected by the story you tell yourself. Any time I spent thinking about “vast distance” in front of me killed my energy. And when I just concentrated on my breathing and told myself “I only got on the bike a minute ago” I surged forward.
3. “You don’t go fast by going fast – but by not going slow”. I think this was something Simon said to me at the start. I have no idea what it means, but pedalling through the night on the Chilterns with my friends, purely enjoying the experience and not striving to meet any deadlines, it all made complete sense.
This charity ride was a bit of a last minute decision so I didn’t get a chance to raise much money before I left. But there’s still some time, so if you’d like to make a donation to Ambitious About Autism I know they’d hugely appreciate it. I would too. However large or small. You can reach my fund-raising page by clicking here. Thanks. Now I am going to lie down!