PN: What are your earliest cycling memories?
GM: I used to tear around with the other kids locally, there was a road off Straight Road that went round in a circle in the middle of the estate, and we just used to go round and round. Cycling was a big thing when we were children, you don’t get it now, the roads are a lot busier. And I remember buying a new bike with my first pay packet. So it’s always been there, sometimes a bit in the background, but for the last five or six years, I’ve been riding with a Wednesday afternoon group. We go down to Mersea or up to Dedham for a cup of tea and a decent catch up. I enjoy cycling more in a group than on my own, although I have my own turbo setup in the shed.
PN: How did you get involved with St Helena Hospice?
GM: It started through a group of us based in Merville Barracks, we used to go out cycling as part of our training. The Hospice organise an event outside Highwoods Tesco every year, with a treadmill and a bike set up for 12 hours cycling and running, so we gave it a go, and now I do it every year. I’ll cycle for 6 hours and then someone else will take over, same with the runners. It makes quite a bit of money. The first year I did it was a real smack around the face, you suddenly realise cancer affects so many people and the local Hospice does so much to help.
PN: Your support for the Hospice didn’t stop there though?
GM: After the Highwoods event, I started doing the annual Dedham ride in September. It’s a really good local event, a safe ride for all ages that anyone can do – children on their bikes with their dads, as well as regular cyclists who just want to go for it. Nobody gets in anybody’s way, it’s a really good community day out and the fact that it benefits the Hospice just ticks all the boxes. And I’ve now had training to become a Hospice Ambassador, speaking to groups and companies, to raise awareness of the Hospice and the services we provide. I enjoy helping people to understand both how vital our care is to the community that they live and work in, and also to give them ideas on how they can get involved.
PN: And you also did the 3-2-1 bike ride in 2015, tell me about that.
GM: It was a four day 300 mile cycling challenge from Colchester to Amsterdam and Brussels. When I signed up I met a load of new people, who are really good friends now, we have something in common just through cycling together. You’re talking 44 people who didn’t know each other, all from different backgrounds, who are now good friends. The majority were complete novices at cycling, just setting themselves a challenge, they had their own reasons for doing it. Most of us trained for over a year or so, there was no set programme or schedule, we just set up a Facebook page, and someone would say I’m going out on Sunday, so get in touch.
And the Hospice arranged a couple of sessions with turbos, we put a film on, and sat there cycling and chatting together. We also had people come in to talk about safety and basic mechanics, and give us hints and tips. It really helps to have the right bike, fitted properly. A few people had hybrids or mountain bike and they upgraded them so the ride was more comfortable and faster. But some people didn’t and they still finished!
Also, the Hospice staff just really engaged with us, they’re not like other charities where it’s always how much have you raised, are you on target, and they’re really pushing you for money all the time. The Hospice made it a whole team effort, with ideas, advertising, publicity, encouragement on the phone, putting you in contact with other people who are riding. The group were all ages, sizes, abilities, and everybody got through it. And it was the team at St Helena that made it happen.
PN: So what about the latest challenge?
We’ve got London to Paris coming up in September 2017, and twenty people from the 3-2-1, that’s nearly 50% of us, have already signed up. Once we get our team established, we’ll start putting on fundraising events again. So I’d say if you fancy cycling London to Paris, just forget the mileage, forget everything else about doing it, if the answer is yes, just do it. It is do-able. If you’re thinking “I’d like to do that, but” – just delete the ‘but’. Just come along on 5 January and talk to people. I still can’t get over it, I’ve been in the Army for 24 years, and the 3-2-1 was one of the best things I’ve ever done.