It’s 6:30am, the legs on the pod are down, doors are open and the early autumn mist is just beginning to lift. All around the pod cyclists gather like swans preparing for migration. First they come one by one, then in their dozens and before we know where we are there is simply a mass deluge of cyclists passionate to do all they can to beat blood cancer. For many of these people theirs is a deep and powerful story of the way in which cancer profoundly changed their lives, for all of them theirs is a fundamental unwillingness for cancer to have the last word. My guess is that this passion could be replicated across many other charities all doing their bit to mobilise their brilliant volunteers, raise vital funds for research and most importantly delivering what are often life changing programs.
As a result of our ongoing work with the University of Birmingham we were approached in 2013 and asked if we could support cyclists participating in the 2014 Birmingham Bikeathon. Needless to say we were more than willing to do what we could. For weeks I liaised closely with the events team at Leukemia research making sure we understood their requirements and were sufficiently resourced to deliver the support they required. In practical terms this meant having plenty of pump stations, energy bars, water bottles and inner tubes on supply as soon as folks needed them. We also provided a dedicated team ready to deliver repairs at speed. In practice this meant dozens of cable adjustments, sorting out the occasional puncture and far more broken pedals than we’d expected (fear not we had plenty of spares).
Watching thousands of passionate people leave centenary square soon reminded me why these events are such a great idea. Cycling has a real sweep up effect bringing former athletes alongside complete novices; if charities can capitalise on this then the sponsored bike ride is both a significant and unique fundraising opportunity. Unlike Marathons and Tirathlons the sponsored bike ride is an activity in which anyone can participate. The diversity of these cyclists come fundraisers represented an even greater diversity of donors collectively enabling a huge impact on the charities work. If we could provide support for such a brilliant gathering then we were delighted to do so.
As beaming face after beaming face crossed the finish line I was reminded that not only does a charity bike ride like the Birmingham Bikeathon enable mass fund raising it also nurtures a huge feel good factor. Whether they crossed the finishing line at a snails pace or sprinted for their personal best every participant shared one thing in common, an enormous grin. When the ride was over its participants shared stories, offered one another encouragement and made their commitment to do it all again next year. At the center of these conversations was the repeated sound of raucous laughter. They'd ridden hard and it felt good! Whether that feeling derives from the sudden release of endorphins, the satisfaction of knowing you’ve made a positive contribution to your chosen charity, the beauty of having reclaimed the road for a day or some other factor it is clearly observable that cycling makes us feel good and lets be honest, in a world of far too much misery that’s the kind of motivational force we could all use.
As we closed the doors, emptied the bins, lifted the pod legs and headed back to our regular spot at the University of Birmingham we couldn’t help but reflect on all those who would be nursing their tired legs. My guess is that however you participated the Birmingham Bikeathon was a great day.
If your tempted to have a go yourself, plans for next years event can be found here.
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