By Zoe McMillan
After 9 days and 969 miles, Jenny Dalton & John Whalley finally made it home to celebrate successfully, completing their Lands End to John O’Groats cycling challenge.
If the intrepid duo were hoping for a quiet and unassuming return to normality though, they were in for certain disappointment as the proud fellow villagers of Seend had very different ideas…well it’s not every day you get to walk amongst local heroes, is it?
They were certainly not expecting their usual Friday night drinks at the village community centre to be ambushed by a host of villagers, all togged up in cycling gear, Lycra and helmets in homage to their impressive achievement, nor were they expecting the celebratory banners, and poo balloons (don’t ask…intensive cycling plays havoc with your bowel movements apparently!) or the vast array of cycling themed delicacies on offer, including of course the cycling pairs particular favourite; the pork pie.
It’s not very often either, John or Jenny were lost for words, but on this occasion even they were taken aback by the level of support from the village and sheer enthusiasm for their tales from the saddle.
To get an exclusive insight into the adventures of SPPCC, yours truly went undercover and masqueraded as a super hero myself, SPPCC’s very own ‘Sustenance girl…bringer of cider and pies to all long-distance cycling enthusiasts’…this allowed me to get up close and personal with John & Jenny and get from John particularly a first-hand account of the trials and tribulations he faced and the lasting affect his adventure will have on him moving forwards. You can read John’s account below.
The staggering and impressive achievement of the Seend duo should not be underestimated. They are two of the 650 that made it across the final finish line in John O’Groats out of over 950 that set off from Lands’ End and together they’ve raised over £5315 for their chosen charities; Vodafone foundation & Macmillan.
The terrible weather conditions they encountered could not dampen their spirits as together they tackled each day as a unique challenge that stood alone…one day at a time, one more push towards the shared end goal. With knees still creaking, shoulders still painful and aching joints still evident it doesn’t seem possible that they would already be searching out their next adventure but they most surely are, and their friends and fellow villagers will most certainly be right behind them once again!!! We’ll let the villagers of Seend have the final word… ” Well done John and Jen. We all knew you would both flipping do it!!!”
In his own words, John Whalley details their Lands End to John O’Groats cycle challenge:
Approximately 900 riders began this event, with around 635 crossing the finish line last Sunday, supported throughout by the very professional organisers, Threshold Sports.
I think the first thing to say is, ‘This was, without doubt, the toughest 9 days of my life!’ Jenny and I had trained very hard, all year for this, with 100mile rides, 4-day back to back tours, rainy rides, hilly rides, but nothing really prepares you for 110 miles, every day, for 9 days, with little sleep in muddy campsites, constantly damp clothing and the most horrendous weather imaginable. It was an emotional rollercoaster of pain and hardship.
That said, the sense of pride and achievement I now feel cannot be put into words. Stressed knee ligaments and cyclists palsy afflicted hands are a small price to pay for the new friends I met along the journey, friendships that I already know will last a lifetime as we supported each other through our own periods of hell, and celebrated our wins together each day.
By its very nature, the event captures you in a bubble that can only involve preparing for cycling all day, cycling all day, and recovering from cycling all day, ready to repeat next day. There is no semblance of real life or normality, and with very sporadic internet coverage and constantly under charged devices, little chance to communicate with the outside world. So, visits from friends and family on the finish lines and pit stops, and messages from loved ones mean everything. We are so grateful for the support we have both received from our families, our friends and our small village of Seend.
In conclusion, this has been an extraordinary journey for me, something I could not have completed without my riding partner and friend Jenny, without the new friends we met along the way, and without the support of our family and friends. But I have also found new qualities in myself, I am stronger and more determined than I realised, I do not give up and I do not let others down when they are in need. I am now looking for a new challenge to see how much more is in me.