Why I'm cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats for a charity close to my heart

Matthew Holme from Weedon shares his story of preparing for the epic challenge in aid of the British Heart Foundation

Friday, 4th June 2021, 2:01 pm
Updated Friday, 4th June 2021, 2:05 pm
Matthew Holme will be cycling from Lands End to John O'Groats in September for the British Heart Foundation

Nine days. 980 miles. 110 miles per day.

All of which is followed by me in a two man tent, with wet kit, a travel pillow and a rather dashing midgey hairnet for company; grab your thickest pair of padded shorts and join me for the ride!

My name is Matt and on September 4, I set off from Lands End in Cornwall on a journey north which will see me (hopefully) arrive at John O’ Groats, Scotland, nine days later on September 12.

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Matt Holme

This journey is called LEJOG for short. Before I had committed to LEJOG, I had only done one ‘long distance’ cycling challenge.

In 2017, I cycled from London to Paris with a number of work colleagues over a four-day period. From what I recall that ride totalled approximately 250 miles.

With hotels at the end of each day and a night out in Paris at the end of the trip, in hindsight and when compared to my impending challenge, it feels a little lightweight.

LEJOG will be a different beast. Hotels will be swapped for camping. A number of colleagues will be swapped for a 1,000 other cyclists (or RABers as I have now learnt), 400km replaced with 1,568km.

A Parisian night out replaced by a photo at the John O’Groats sign, the packing up of the bike and a 13-hour car journey south with my fiancé, Sophie, her mother, Belinda, and our dog,

Winston.

There will be little time to enjoy the moment. My legs may thank me for a swift retirement to the passenger seat though.

Despite the differences, there are a number of similarities: firstly, cycling will be the only thing I have to do all day.

Eat. Cycle. Sleep. Repeat. Nine times over. It will be the core focus, no distractions.

Secondly, I expect the support I give and receive from others will help me and them through the low points. For which I guarantee there will be numerous.

Thirdly, and most important, for me, it is a charity bike ride. I wanted to take another opportunity to raise money and support the charity I had chosen to support in 2017: the British Heart Foundation

On New Year's Eve 2009, I called my mum and dad to wish them a happy new year.

It was lovely to hear from them but fairly quick and to the point as they were getting ready for bed, (they don’t do New Year's Eve).

On my return home on January 2, I found out that they were not getting ready for bed at all.

The conversation had, for my mum’s part, occurred from a Coventry hospital bed. A bed my mum still occupied days later.

I was furious I didn’t know sooner. But there were more serious issues afoot.

Whilst away, my mum had complained of chest pains and had been taken to hospital when her blood pressure got to the astronomically high levels of 230/160 beats per minute.

Mum needed a heart bypass. At the age of 49, she was so young. It runs in the family mind.

Uncles, aunties, grandparents and now parents have all been victims to troubles with the heart. Some live to tell the tales like my mum but some are not so lucky.

With this in mind, I commit to raising the money for the British Heart foundation and hit ‘confirm place'. The target is set at £2,500.

Reviewing the ride, highlights are a plenty. Days one and two will be, in elevation terms, the toughest of days.

Day one, which sees us ride from Lands End to Okehampton sees us climb 8,232ft over 105 miles.

Day two follows on with another 6,852ft climbing over 110 miles ending up in Bath.

The legs will be screaming at this point, but riding by St Michaels Mount and up Cheddar Gorge will be as rewarding as it will be painful.

By the end of day two, the amount of climbing is equivalent to vertically climbing 44 football pitches. Only seven days to go!

From Bath, we head over the Severn Bridge and past Chepstow Castle towards Ludlow in Shropshire, and to then onto Haydock in Cheshire.

By the end of day five, we arrive is Carlisle, the last full day of riding in England, having enjoyed the beautiful Lake District.

The GoPro will be busy, I must remember spare memory cards!

Heading into Scotland, the climbs typically become less steep in gradient but are longer in length.

Riding over the following days will see us pass through the Cairngorms National Park and the Grampion Mountains tackling a number of iconic climbs; Glenshee on day seven and The Lect on day eight.

According to Strava, Glenshee is 8.17km long, averaging four per cent. By the time I crawl over the summit, gasping for air, I will be 329m higher than I was 8km previous.

The Lect is shorter - 4.2km long with an average gradient of 5.7 per cent. Over the climb you gain 245m of elevation.

The King of the Mountain clocked in at 11 minutes. For me, being approximately 750 miles into the journey at this point, reaching the summit without walking will be the goal.

In all honesty, my nerves are beginning to grow week by week. Regardless of the training I have done.

I see lots of other participants posting long, hilly rides which I compare to my rides; often concluding I am not doing enough.

I must remain focused and not allow myself to cycle another person's training plan.

I must remember it is not a race. The main goal is to complete the ride and raise as much as I can for the British Heart Foundation so they can continue their great work in helping families like mine.

To read more of my journey, you can follow my blog at cycleholme.com. You can also visit my fundraising page here.