Cycling For Harry 2012 - Kallen Kerr
A bit of charity work to report on now. My reports are generally essays and this one is no exception, so bare with me! What a fantastic ride this turned out to be. Away from the demands of training and racing, it's great to just do something different from time to time. I had heard about CyclingForHarry for some time through facebook, and only when I decided to stay in Birmingham for another week, did I realise that I might be able to take part in the ride. Let me explain what the charity ride was for.
Cycling for Harry would see 30 cyclists ride from Blakenhale Junior School in Sheldon, Birmingham, to Wembley Stadium in aid of HelpHarryHelpOthers. The charity was set up by the mother of Harry Moseley, Georgina, after Harry sadly passed away in October 2011. Harry Moseley was a remarkable kid, touching millions with his campaign to raise money for Cancer Research. Four years before his death, he was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumour, and after seeing a friend pass away with the same condition, Harry set about raising money by making and selling bracelets to Cancer Research. Despite suffering himself, he was determined to help others, and raised over £500,000 on his own. This drew the attention and support from a number of high profile names, including footballers John Terry, Frank Lampard and ex footballer Gary Lineker, TV presenter Ben Shepherd, then prime-minister Gordon Brown and entrepreneurs and Dragon's Den stars, Duncan Bannatyne, Theo Paphitis and Peter Jones. Harry also amassed just under 100,000 followers on Twitter.
I had no major plans that weekend, and I thought "well I'm fit enough to do it, and I kinda feel like I should at least ask", so I sent a message to the organiser Brian Bennett and Georgina but didn't get any reply at first. It just so happened that as I was pulling into my street about to finish a training ride on the Tuesday, that I caught sight of a bloke with a cycling for Harry top on...bit of a coincidence! So I spoke to him and went off to meet up with half the lads for a quick stroll to Knowle. They were pleased I come along and said they could do with me coming along for the ride to Wembley. I had my own accommodation plans, with my Dad living roughly half way down, so they said they could do nothing to stop me from riding alongside them. They couldn't officially give me a spot on the team, as they'd had to tell a load of people that they were full. If anyone asks Kall, you're just tagging along! Questions were asked as to whether I thought they were right to be taking two days to do the 104 miles instead of one. As most of them hadn't owned a bike before the idea came about, and a lot of them had MTB's, I said "yes, I would never have considered doing 104 miles in one day when I first started. I remember being chuffed at doing 20 miles to begin with, and that was on a road bike!"
So the big day finally arrived, and I made my way to Blakenhale Junior School where Harry attended. A crowd of well over 100 were there to see us off, including the ITV Central news crew. I arrived and people looked at me gone out. I assume it was something to do with the name Glasgow Wheelers and a few Saltires on the kit. We all stood together as a team so people could take a few photos, and then I got a glimpse at some of the riders I hadn't seen on Tuesday, such as former Birmingham City footballer Michael Johnson, and Midlands legend Blind Dave Heeley. Dave was the first man ever to complete 7 marathons in 7 days on 7 continents. A remarkable achievement for anyone, but even more special for obvious reasons. He was riding with a friend of his on a tandem. After an announcement by Georgina Moseley, the red tape was cut and off we went. 10am sharp. I managed to get the Wheelers exposed on ITV, as there's wonderful footage of my backside departing at the end of their report! Of we went then, and as we cycled down through Solihull we had people in the street cheering us on, and even tons of cars tooting their horns and people shouting nice things out their windows, which makes a change! It was evident that everyone in the city had heard about Harry and his story, and knew exactly what we were doing. Aside from us cyclists, the day after there would be 11,000 people doing the Walk For Harry. An annual event normally called the Walkathon (as it's 26 miles), this year Free Radio had decided to rename it Walk For Harry.
After a long drawn out process of waiting up for a few riders a couple of times, we had our first official stop at Warwick. Georgina Moseley hadn't done much training, and as she was doing the Walkathon on Sunday, she decided that Warwick was far enough. Couldn't really blame her after we found out her tyre pressure was 20 psi!!! Even on a mountain bike that's insanely low. We had a support van with lots of food, drink, tools and spare parts so after riders had been fed and watered and any other bike problems fixed, we set off again knowing that we had to get a move on, as we were quite a bit behind schedule. We had to take a leaf out of Blind Dave's book, as he and his partner shot off a few miles before Warwick, and hadn't stopped in the town. The next stop was Banbury, a very familiar area as it's so close to my dad's, and there's some pretty hard hills around there. Nothing like the Crow or the Tak ma doon, but still pretty hard. We passed the Burton Dassetts, and I pointed out a load of the hard hills that I could see to one of the lads Dave Spittle. A great guy, who is one of the fitter riders on the team. Despite my local knowledge, I completely forgot about a rather nasty 11% hill at the little village of Warmington which goes up one side of the Edgehill escarpment. It's not pleasant at the best of times, never mind for people new to cycling! As with all the hills on the journey, I told everyone that I'd see them at the top, and gunned it. This along with a few sprints now and again made for good training. Me and another youngish rider John Gibson decided to breakaway from the rest at the top and had our own Tour de Banbury, annoying the natives in the process with my complete disregard to the cycle lane...apparently you have to use them? Nah! Eventually we met up again with the others and proceeded to Bicester.
After arriving on the outskirts of Bicester, we quickly agreed on the correct way to Aylesbury, our final destination (well for everyone except me). One road all the way, and with the wind in our sails, we were flying. We had finally caught up with Blind Dave and his partner, but they were obviously not interested in going slow. Probably one of the most amusing things I've ever seen on the bike was looking back to see these two guys on a tandem, storming past me at well over 20 mph with not a care in the world. I thought to myself "Graeme Cockburn would have a hard time keeping up with these pair". I joined in with them, as it was a bit of decent training, taking it in turns to do work at the front and then drafting behind one another. For a good 10 miles we hardly ever dropped below 20 mph. It didn't take too long to arrive in Aylesbury. We made our way through the town to the Holiday Inn were the riders were staying (well at least they though they were staying, as after I left them they told me later that they'd got the wrong Holiday Inn). I said cheerio to a few of the lads and shook hands with Blind Dave, saying how much of a pleasure it was to have met him, and to have rode alongside him. He along with his partner, Michael Johnson and Georgina, would take part in the Walk For Harry on Sunday. 73 miles so far, now for another 35 back to the little gay village of Woodford Halse. I got in and I was dead. 108 miles combined with hard efforts up hills and occasional sprints had knackered me out alright!
After a good nights sleep, I programmed the route to Wembley Stadium into my Garmin and set off from the gay village in a hurry, as I'd left a little late at just past 8am and had to average little over 18mph on hilly country back lanes to get to Aylesbury for 10am. I managed to get there just on time to find everyone relaxing outside bathing in the sun. The day before, one of the lad's had one of his pedal cranks come off, and as Halford's didn't open until 10am, we were setting off at 11 now. I could've stayed in bed longer rather than getting up at 6! Halfords were apparently originally going to charge in the region of £170 to fix it, as it wasn't as simple as fitting a new pedal crank. However after the mechanic realised he had the tools to do something spectacular, he managed to fix the bike for next to nothing. Relief. We set off from the Holiday inn with me as the leader after people realised I had to way to Wembley on screen. We went for the most direct route which took us onto the A41, a lovely dual carriageway. Thankfully it was a Sunday and not Friday rush hour, and so generally quiet, although you still had the occasional idiot in their car who thinks you're not allowed to ride a bike on a dual carriageway. We set a pace of about 13/14mph average, which wasn't bad considering most people were on MTB's and the terrain was undulating. Some young lads decided it would be wise to drive up to within 2 feet of us all and chuck water on me. Very mature, although it cooled me down a bit in truth! A puncture problem hindered our approach into Watford, but once that was sorted, we knew we were close. The second day was 35 miles from Aylesbury to Wembley and we'd already done about 20 miles. Now it was time to get lost around London! I rode to London from Birmingham the weekend before, as I hadn't been on a mad trip in ages and I was bored, so as you do, I rode to London. I clocked up 150 miles and as a result, I now know practically every back street on offer in the capital. Inevitably my Garmin tried to send me up one way streets the wrong way, and up roads that didn't exist. Generally speaking we were fine up until about 5 miles to go when we went of course completely. The course I could still see in relation to where we were, but I was just hoping for a right hand turn that would take me a mile or so west, back onto the course! I didn't tell anyone, and so I was receiving loads of praise for my navigation skills. "Are you sure you know where you're going Kall?" "Yeah of course Kallen knows where he's going, don't you Kall?" "Oh yeah sure, got it on my Garmin. Follow me everyone, follow me! Oh ffs help!" Eventually we got back on course with 3 miles to go. Another mile later we finally saw the arches of Wembley Stadium, and a big cheer came from everyone. Now we couldn't get lost! Brian Bennett and Melissa Castle came to the front as they were the ones who started the idea of the ride. We arrived outside the stadium and found the right car park with our fans in. We had made it! Hugs, handshakes, pictures, food and beer followed. We spent a good 45 mins or so there before we made the journey back to Brum. Brian Bennett went live on air in one of the minibuses to FreeRadio to say that the journey was complete, and revealed how it went.
We had raised just over £16k through justgiving.com alone. With the sponsor's sponsorship money that increased to just over £20k. The 11,000 people that took part in the Walk For Harry raised a staggering £420,000. The £1m mark has now been broken for the all time total money raised, if you take into account the £500,000 plus raised by Harry himself.
So, finally a big thank you to all the lads who made me welcome on the journey. I thoroughly enjoyed being part of it. I heard rumours in the pub afterwards that Amsterdam is the next trip for Harry. Not sure what the motives behind that one are!