The Coast to Coast challenge
It all started over a lift home from the YFC Conference in January. Paul was giving Chris Elsdon, the new Director of Salford YFC a lift to Cheltenham on the way home from the conference in Manchester. As they chatted down the M5 and M6 about youth work, life and cycling they hit upon cycling the Coast to Coast route from the Irish Sea to the North Sea in a challenging two days as a fundraiser.
Two days, 140 miles and 11,000 feet of climbing is challenging and the only way of completing it was lots of training. The team would be made up of Paul and a group from Salford YFC including Chris. Everything was looking good for the ride in late July; training was going well and the fundraising was on target, despite an ambitious target of £5000 for the work in Gloucestershire. July 2nd changed all of that. Paul was out for a training ride when he crashed at 35mph whilst descending. Fortunately nothing was broken but he did get a bad case of “road rash” on his left shin and thigh. Effectively he had two hand size skin thickness burns on his leg. At the same time one of the riders in Manchester broke an elbow. With the team literally falling apart, we decided to reschedule the ride as soon as people recovered. Paul spent about five weeks off the bike whilst he recovered, getting back on the bike on 7th August. The ride was hastily rescheduled for 30-31st August. The date change did mean that Paul could be joined by Will Wright from Cheltenham who also was raising money for our work.
With only 150 post crash training miles in his legs Paul, Will and the team set off on 30th August for a big 70 mile day with over 6000 feet of climbing. Having dipped their wheels in the sea at Whitehaven, they set off buoyed on by cake, increasing sponsorship and the encouragement of fellow riders. Everything went superbly well until Keswick when Chris’ wheel broke. Fortunately Josh was driving a support car and was able to take him and the bike to a shop in Penrith who could fit a new wheel. The rest of us met them there before setting off for the last 25 miles which included the 4 mile, 1900ft climb up to Hartside Pass which was right at the end of the day. After 70 miles, the lack of training due to the crash paid its toll on Paul who by the end of the day, could not physically pedal or bend due to the tightness in his legs. Plenty of stretching took place that night along with much prayer. Paul was unsure if he would be in a condition to ride the next day. In the morning Paul felt stiff but was able to ride. The morning started with a steep ride out of the village of Alston over wet cobbles! Never a good combination but after everyone negotiated that safely we kept climbing for the next ten miles. After a long descent, we stopped for more cake before completing our final climb of the ride up a 17% climb to the top of the North Pennines. The sight of the defibrillator at the top of the climb was a little disconcerting! The climb marked the start of a long descent towards Newcastle and on to our destination of Tynemouth. At this point we had our first and only puncture. Whilst the second day was easier all the encouragement from social media and the continually increasing sponsorship made a huge difference. After 14 hours and 46 minutes of cycling in two days they arrived in Tynemouth and dipped their wheels in the North Sea having cycled across England.
The sponsorship total continued to rise and as we go to print the total raised between Paul and Will has reached £4497. If you have not sponsored yet and would like to help move them closer to the £5000 target please sponsor via the following weblinks:
For Paul visit: http://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/PaulBennett3
For Will visit: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/William-Wright10
Thank you for all of the sponsorship we have received, the encouragement, messages and prayers. It has been great to receive such a great total to enable us to support young people in Gloucestershire and make the Gospel relevant to them.