Getting ready for the Break the Cycle charity event in association with Social Bite has brought a much-needed daily change from that seen during the EUROS 2020. That period was summarised by waking up with an inevitable sense of optimism for England’s chance of breaking a 55-year backlog of pain, alongside an equal sense of doom for the day that lay ahead as I regretted my overindulgence of the night before. Alas, with the loss to Italy in my rearview mirror, my focus switched to an event, that unlike the football, my actions would affect the result: Break the Cycle 2021.
Getting back on the bike
Let’s start with my bike. Has a year of neglect left her unable to complete the full 60 miles? Has her time in the shed affected her form? And most importantly will she be able to carry me the distance from Glasgow to Edinburgh? Thankfully both the bike and my hopes of finishing this challenge have so far remained intact, as the bike came through her version of a footballers medical with a glowing report.
Next – fitness. When starting my training, I placed my trust in the great old saying, ‘it’s like riding a bike’. So on my first ride from my home in Hammersmith to the Softcat London Office, seven miles of flat urban jungle, I was feeling pretty confident, I mean what could go wrong? Although I was panting like a big dog on a summer’s day – I was cruising down the Embankment full of optimism, telling myself ‘60 miles? I’ll do that before lunch! Sir Chris Hoy? I will be riding circles around him!’. As you can see my ego was up and my speed was rapid, however, like every great English sporting moment – I was moments from disaster. This disaster manifested itself in the form of a major cramp and the 521 London Bus headed for Liverpool Street Station. To paint a picture: my right leg gave up and fully cramped, in doing so not only were my dreams of beating our greatest Olympian dashed, but it also resulted in a major loss of balance. At this exact moment, said London bus decided to change into my lane without warning, resulting in a collision between myself and the bus- I will let you imagine who the winner was. Needless to say, I picked up my cramping body and damaged ego off the pavement and pushed what was left of my bike into the office. Not a great start.
On reflection – my morning commute and accident has a strange connection to the very charity we are trying to raise money for. For many people that Social Bite help – homelessness is not a choice and often comes very unexpectedly and abruptly. Much like the beginning of my ride – life for people experiencing homelessness often starts out like any other member of society; with hope, ambition, and drive for the best we can be. As such, the causes of their homelessness are quite like my run in with the bus; unexpected, not their fault and unlike my incident, can lead to long lasting damage both mentally and physically.
Throughout all my subsequent rides and training sessions, I have come to realise that for many members of the homeless community, becoming homeless is only the start of their pain. Aside from the cold nights spent outdoors and the constant battle between hunger and exhaustion, who can those experiencing homelessness rely on to help them break this downward spiral? What would I do if I were in their shoes? The answer has struggled to appear – I have no idea how I would even start to get past this.
These reflections have driven both the Softcat Team and I to train and fundraise under the direct motivation that if it were us experiencing homelessness, we would want an organisation like Social Bite to help us make the first step towards a sustainable and happy life. That is why despite the blood, sweat and copious amount of chafing cream that has gone into our training thus far, we are feeling good as we head into the final stretch before the event. I have learnt that like all those who face homelessness or any other issue in modern society, we need to help each other through difficult times and offer support so that the required steps to overcome these challenges can be met.
On that note – with a bit of support from my fellow riders and some motivation from myself, I will try my commute again – only this time, driver of the 521 Bus to Liverpool street, would you mind? I’ve got bigger challenges to overcome!