Self-confessed ‘rookie cyclist’ Natalie Ingham is taking on a mammoth 81-mile bike ride this summer, in honour of her friend Leon Callon.
Leon was cared for at St Catherine’s Hospice earlier this year, and along with family and friends who make up #TeamCallon, he has helped raised thousands of pounds for charities including St Catherine’s after he was diagnosed with a rare type of stomach cancer aged just 35.
In the first of three blogs, Natalie tells why she wants to support Leon’s legacy with the gruelling challenge; how training is going; and how a few little falls and bruises won’t hinder her dedication to the cause.
Back in February, when I saw St Catherine’s post on social media about securing places in the Manchester to Blackpool Bike Ride, I really wanted to join the team, but was gutted to realise I was already away that weekend. I spoke to Leon and, as expected, he said that shouldn’t stop me training hard and entering something else. After a little research I found the Sigma Sports West Coast Classic event happening in Preston a week before the Manchester to Blackpool one.
I had been thinking for some time about how I could contribute to Leon’s fundraising team, #TeamCallon, raising awareness about the vital work of St Catherine’s and the funding needed to help support the hospice’s services.
I thought to myself ‘well I have a bike, a gym membership and time to train – almost 17 weeks’. So despite not really riding a bike since childhood, and never having ridden on the road, I clicked enter!
The event has three route options – short, standard and epic. Not wanting Leon to tease me for entering the ‘short’ ride (as I knew he would, even though this was still 56 miles) I signed up for the standard course – oh just a standard 81 miles!
Starting and finishing in Preston on July 1st, the route takes in some of The Forest of Bowland and heads out to Lytham for a fish and chip fuel stop on the beach.
Having known Leon since childhood, I knew he’d be excited that I’d finally joined his fundraising team and proud of me for committing to something that he knew would be a huge personal challenge. Sadly, Leon passed away about four weeks into my training, but not before giving me fundraising tips and motivational words of advice from his own experiences, after riding the Leeds Liverpool canal the year before, shortly after his cancer diagnosis.
My first few weeks of training have seen me having to buy a new bike (apparently all bikes are not equal), source all necessary gear (padded pants – an absolute must) and trying (and failing) to negotiate clip-in pedals! Let’s just say I don’t yet feel ‘at one’ with my bike and I am covered in bruises, after falling three times; once in a petrol station and once in the middle of Blackpool on a sunny bank holiday. But people tell me this is a cyclist’s rite of passage and so I keep getting back on, thinking how Leon is most likely laughing down at my escapades but proud all the same.
Fundraising is going well and I have raised almost a third of my £1,500 target which makes it all worthwhile. Over the next few weeks I will need to increase my time in the saddle and build up the miles, as well as finally crack the clip in pedals once and for all – but I will let you know how that goes in my next instalment.
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