(Disclaimer – I wrote this in April 2018!)
The Chinese have a wonderful proverb – a journey of a thousand miles starts with a single step.
This is that step.
In 2020 (currently on hold!) I will cycle across America, aiming to raise £20,000 to support people with Multiple Sclerosis and people with mental health issues. On the way I’m going to speak to as many people as possible about mental health, and why we should talk about it more.
To hit this target, I’m going to be fundraising left, right and centre. There will charity bag packs, bucket raids, cake sales, and much much more… including taking part in the London Marathon next year.
Quite. So just to reiterate – I’ll be cycling between New York and San Francisco, a distance of nearly 3500 miles. I’ll be crossing three major mountain ranges (the Appalachian Mountain range, the Rocky Mountain range, and the Sierra Nevada Mountain range), and hundreds of miles of desert. America has bears, wolves, hurricanes, guns, and lots of cars. It will mean over two months sitting on a saddle not much bigger than the palm your hand. It’ll mean leaving everything I love in another continent and spending weeks on my own. There’ll be rain, wind, and burning sun (don’t forget, I’m ginger!) It will be bloody hard work but it will be the adventure of a lifetime. Ultimately, it will raise vital funds to support MS research and to support people with mental health issues.
I’ve cycled LEJOG twice.
I’ve shaved off all my hair.
I’ve baked dozens of cakes…
But it’s not enough.
I’ve already raised over £15,000 for a range of charities – principally the MS Society, as my mother has Secondary Progressive MS (read about how this affected me here). Since writing this, things haven’t got better – the type of MS my mum has is degenerative and is only going to go in one direction. But I can’t sit down and do nothing. If I can raise funds to help others in my situation – if I can play even a tiny role in finding a meaningful cure – then at least something good will have come out of my pain. I’ve been considering what to do next for several years now.
Then, last year, I had a mental health breakdown (see some words I wrote about this here). When I started sharing my experiences online so many people came out of the woodwork with their own mental health story. Friends, family, colleagues – I learned that I wasn’t alone. But I also learned how much pain people people suffer in silence – how much we bottle up, and how serious the consequences of this can be. And if there’s something I can do – by sharing, by talking, and by raising money to support those who need it… then maybe the hell I went through will have been worth it.
So there it is. I can’t fix my mum. I can’t make depression and anxiety disappear. But I can’t do nothing.
Are you really going to be able to cycle across America?
Yes! Sure, I’m currently super unfit, can barely run 5k, haven’t cycled in a year and I know that America is a long way from people who can help me if things go wrong. But if it was easy it wouldn’t be a challenge. Many years ago my dad gave me a card that said “nothing is as important as knowing you can do anything” – and I think this is pretty important life advice coming from someone who drove a vintage car 18,000 miles down the length of America. After all, I’ve got two years to train, to make contacts along the route, and mentally prepare myself for the ride. I also fundamentally believe in the kindness of human beings, and their ability to make the world a better place.
“What can I do to help?”
Excellent question! This is the biggest challenge I’ve undertaken in my life – and I’ve run a Students’ Union, completed a degree, and got married – so I can’t do it on my own. I’ll be sharing lots of opportunities to get involved – from helping out with bucket raids and bag packs to gathering a few key volunteers to help manage the project. Read more detail about how you can help here. I’m also going to spend the next few years asking everyone I meet if they can introduce me to anyone who can help – who can sponsor me, who can host me in America, or who can support the logistics of this trip. So if you know anyone who might be able to help please do introduce me.
Finally – and here’s where I do a very British squirm – I need your money! Whether you choose to sponsor me for all of the different madcap fundraisers I do over the next two years or make a single donation to cover them – all every penny counts. The sponsorship page isn’t live yet… but watch this space! Perhaps you could also help fund raise for me – do a cake sale, organise a bucket collection in your home town, dye your hair orange… Anything you can do to spread the message and raise money for these vital causes will be super appreciated.
Much love to you all
P.S. why not subscribe to very occasional email updates from me so that you can learn about preparations and then be kept up to date with the latest information from the ride?
P.P.S. If you’ve been inspired to get involved why not message me right now!