There are two sides to every story and my year of challenges in aid of Make-A-Wish UK certainly has that.
I have no real connection to Make-A-Wish – I’ve not been granted or involved in a wish – it is a Charity that I felt does something that is simply brilliant. Make-A-Wish grant the one true wish of serious ill children, wishes range from wanting to be a princess or a super hero, to staring in their own film or visiting Disneyland. It is what that wish creates that is special – it’s about hope, something to look forward to and something to break the cycle of appointments, tests and hospitals. Every child deserves the chance to be a child, and Make-A-Wish deliver that in spades, and that is what I find so amazing in what they do.
So, why do people put themselves through these challenges? Why put yourself out investing all that time in training, putting yourself through some much discomfort and pain?
The answer, for me, is easy – I know (now that I’ve done it) running a marathon and cycling the length of Great Britain hurts, it really, really hurts, but I know I will wake up the next day and I feel better. Some children don’t always get the chance of feeling ok tomorrow and that is something that hurts me, I can’t explain why, but it does. So to push my body a little bit in order to create some smiles was an opportunity I wanted to take. Of course it’s not completely selfless – At the end of 2016 I decided I wanted to do some of the things I had always thought about or wanted to do, but had never got around to doing – running a marathon, cycling the London to Brighton route and walking the National Three Peaks Challenge. Having a reason and a Charity in Make-A-Wish for it all made sure I kept true to my word and just got on and did them and do you know what, it feels good to do something good, to give something back and to hopefully make a difference to someone’s life.
The second reason being I’ve got two girls, who I hope will grow up to be good, honest and empowered women. So setting a good example and giving them a good moral compass is very important to me. They have such a strong, independent female role model in their mum, Olivia, and it is a genuine pleasure to see their bond grow stronger. From me, I hope I can show them that the world we live in is not always equal or fair and some days there is so much wrong that change seems impossible. While that might sound pessimistic, it really isn’t. We have to look at the world positively and remember that it is in our power to be the change we want to see in and that we have a duty to stand up and speak for those who cannot do it for themselves. Removing all the grandiose, self-righteous BS from the above – really all I care about is that they try, try to be the best people they can be.
Aside from the reasons why I’ve taken all of this on, the benefit of this journey and supporting Make-A-Wish is that I’ve been lucky to meet some incredible people and get involved in things I could never have never of dreamed of. I feel fortunate to have met Tony Frobisher and his family through Make-A-Wish – Milla, born with quadripligia cerebral palsy, was granted her wish to visit Disneyland in 2012. Tony and I have cycled together on a couple of occasions now, once for his Worcester to Eastbourne challenge and in November he joined me for a few miles as I cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Tony is such a genuine, open and thoughtful person who has become a firm friend, his family opened their house to me on my JOGLE Challenge and made me feel so welcome. It has been a year since Milla sadly passed away and December is, I imagine, an especially difficult month so you have my thoughts and best wishes x
Also want to say thank you to Dr Emma Cotterill – who has been amazingly supportive, quick to congratulate and check that I’m doing ok. I am yet to actually meet Emma in the flesh, but I have promised here a drink in the New Year. If you’re an Instagram or Twitter user, go give her a follow – her posts are a daily dose of good that we can all use;
Instagram – https://www.instagram.com/empowerpsychology/
Twitter – https://twitter.com/dr_cotterill
I don’t want this bit to turn in to a self-indulgent piece of winging, so this side is short and sweet. Life, like cycling from John O’Groats to Land’s End, isn’t a straight line, it has plenty of ups and downs and sometimes you have to turn around to end up on the right path.
I am my own worst critic in everything I do in life, I set extremely high standards of myself and as such I am often left frustrated and disappointed – it is a hard way to live. For a long time I’ve felt guilty, ashamed and that I had failed at my marriage and at being a father – I got the work / life balance so very wrong and I burnt myself out. I was unhappy and made those who loved me unhappy too. Stress and depression turned me in to someone else, but it also made me realise what I wanted and needed from my life.
On the penultimate day of my JOGLE challenge, after a day of going up and down through Devon I stopped, I had spent a large portion of the day crying as I rode – I was so close to the end, I was in pain and I was reflecting on why the hell I was even there. I had a note from my eldest daughter in my pocket, just a tiny scrap of paper on which she had written “I love you so much” – I sat on the side of the road and read it and took some time to call up all of the amazing memories I have of my kids and my adventures so far and it was this that got me up and going again.
It took 9 days and 950 miles being largely alone inside my own head for me to realise that maybe I am good enough. That I need to stop beating myself up. That I need to let go of this guilt and to enjoy the running and cycling for what they are and not using them as a tool to punish myself.
Like the tattoo’s on my arm – I need to remember to wear my story with pride. I have no regrets, I wear my heart on my sleeve and when it gets hard and life breaks me down that is when I come back stronger.
My year of challenges including the last, where I cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End in 9 days, solo and unsupported were in aid of Make-A-Wish. So far I’ve managed to raise nearly £2,500 – if you’d like to donate your generosity would be very much appreciated.