“Yes, I can ride 300 miles!” I exclaim , struggling to overcome the emotion, whilst peering at the screen of my Samsung that’s raised above my head, making sure my bike, bleak landscape and the tall pole of course are in view for people to see. Sprawled across my bike, flapping in the biting September breeze my yellow reflective vest flaps around adding to the whistle caused by the wind blowing over the pole.
In solitude, looking back down the old Roman road that leads to Stanage pole, I think to myself the countryside may be peaceful but its always far from silent! I sit down on a large stone boulder to gather my thoughts in prayer as a few tears run down my face which the wind instantly dry and I feel harden on my cheeks.
I think back to 20 years ago, the last time that I had ridden up here 3 weeks before an accident when a car knocked me off my bike causing permanent knee problems. A few weeks before that I had completed a charity bike ride from Don Valley stadium to Rother Valley, the lovely country park that’s now on my doorstep and where I have spent much of the last 300 miles riding.
The ride was in memory of my brother Christopher who fought a 5 year battle with cancer. His strength and determination was and still is admired by so many, to carry on his work as an accountant, look after his young wife and daughter and to preach right until the end, his last sermon being given 2 weeks before he passed away in St Lukes Hospice. As I think back another tear runs down my cheek.
I look at the bike and the exhilaration returns of the ride.
New years Eve 2018, as usual I asked my children what they have enjoyed about 2018 and what they planned for 2019. Having had a shocking December with my mental health I told them that I wanted to do something special for the 20th anniversary of my accident and ride up to Stanage Pole on My mobility scooter… silence… I’ve seen that look on their faces many times before with the challenges I have set myself!
February 26th, 2019. I’m sat chatting over breakfast with a good friend who steers the conversation towards health and my weight. He clumsily explains the Keto diet he is on, whilst in my mind I know that its aimed at me. I look into his eyes and see how worried he is and it dawns on me the impact and worry that my health and weight are having on my 5 children, mother, family and friends.
2018 had been a tough year with my health and chronic pain worsening and various scans and tests.
In that few moment over breakfast I decide that its time to turn my life around.
The next day I give my daughter Danielle the entire contents of food in my kitchen and go out and buy enough Keto freindly food to last me the week.
After a week I have lost several pounds, but after 2 weeks something beyond comprehension happens. The chronic pain that I have been suffering from for 17 years starts to go. For the first time in many years I start to sleep for 8 hours instead of 3. My memory starts to improve and my thought process become clear. Gradually over the weeks as the pounds then stones drop off my physical health improves, my mental health improves and I get back my buzz for life!
August 26th 2019, I weigh myself. Five and a half stone lost in 6 months!
In July I had sold my mobility scooter and acquired an electric mountain bike. I signed up for the 300 miles in September challenge with Cancer Research UK just weeks after getting back on a bike.
Over the last 3 weeks and 300 miles I have regained my love for riding along canal footpaths, along disused rail lines and the many ancient bridal ways. I’ve regained my enthusiasm for photography along the way which I love to share and read the comments, particularly when people are off their feet and can’t get out.
I look back at Stanage pole and another tear runs down my cheek. A happy tear that I have overcome so much in the last 9 months. In many ways the 1000 feet climb from Hathersage with twists and turns resembles the journey I have faced over the years. I turn around though and look back down that same rocky path. My adrenaline rises and I get back on the bike and anticipation of the fast ride back down the track. I wipe my last tears away now and focus.
No looking back now, I intend the future to be the ride of my life!