Club Chaplain Alun Jones took on C2C for PCUK
When the Football League asked for volunteers to take on the London to Amsterdam bike ride challenge in aid of our official charity partner, Prostate Cancer UK, recently we quickly found a willing volunteer in our very own cycle mad club chaplain Alun Jones.
However, work commitments meant that Alun had to add a little twist to his end of the bargain - so he kept it local with a 140-mile ride along the popular but very challenging Coast to Coast route. We spoke to him shortly after he completed the feat last week.
"I absolutely loved doing it," he said. "I set off from Whitehaven on the Thursday morning, in the thunder and lightning, and I have to say that wasn't the best. I was being interviewed live on BBC Radio Cumbria while that was going on and I was raring to go despite the weather. To finally get going after so much preparation was a really good feeling.
"The challenge isn't necessarily the distance, although it is around 140 miles. The main challenge is the hills because it's just one after another. As soon as you think you've got a flat run another one appears.
"As you set off from Whitehaven you go onto the designated C2C route, which is quite flat, but that all changes when you get into the Lakes. There are some hills you can't even see the top of that are a 1:8 incline. Whinlatter is probably the toughest hill but there is a fabulous view once you get to the top - you can see for miles."
"When you're doing it for a good cause, like Prostate Cancer, it's quite easy to keep yourself motivated," he confirmed. "You're doing it for people who might be lying in hospital or receiving treatment so they can't do anything like this themselves. There's the personal challenge as well, where you want to do something that tests your stamina and strength, and this certainly did that!
"A lot of my parishioners were really pleased somebody was highlighting a disease their families and friends have been affected by so they've all been really supportive. A few of them jokingly said they didn't think I could do it so it was good to prove them wrong. I've received loads of support through my Just Giving page, and on the club's Facebook and Twitter sites, so I would like to say thank you to everybody who has donated."
"I didn't ever get to the point where I wanted to stop, but I did stop half way up Hartside hill. It's a very large hill and, for some reason, I decided to take the off road route so it was a very rough track. There were points where I had to carry the bike up streams and things like that. I got half way up and ended up lying down with my bike on top of me, because I was so tired, but I knew I couldn't wait too long because it was getting dark and the temperature was dropping. The main thing that got me back on my way was that I knew once I got to the top it was all downhill into Alston, which is where I stayed overnight."
"There was a lot of the ride that had been modernised by Sustrans, who are the national bike charity, so that does make it very enjoyable," he continued. "You cycle through a lot of what appear to be old railway tracks, without the actual track part in place, so it's nice and flat, with trees overhanging, and it really is beautiful.
"It was another significant and inspiring part of the whole experience for me because it brought me closer to God's creations rather than being in an urbanised area full of lamp posts and cars."
"Something like this does bring my faith into focus," he confirmed. "It makes you think about people suffering, in particular, and how much you want to help in situations like that.
"It also made me think about the beauty of creation and I think, whenever you're pushing yourself, you bring yourself closer to God anyway. When push comes to shove, and you're lying on a hill with your bike on top of you, you do feel close to God."
And on how it felt to complete the challenge, he said: "There's a designated sign that says C2C finish and there is a great sense of relief and elation when you get there.
"I couldn't wait to get an ice cream because my throat was killing me - drinking lots of bottled water does that you. There's a huge sense of achievement because you're doing it with other people in mind. I nursed my wife for four years after she got cancer, and she died in my arms, so I was thinking about her during the ride. I felt part of something bigger than myself because there was a collective group of people who couldn't be there who I was thinking about throughout the challenge."
"I'd like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped promote my Just Giving page and to everyone I met along the road," he told us. "An example of the help I got is the lady at Alston who took one look at me, when I got to her hotel, and she told me to sit down. She brought me a bowl of ice cream which was fantastic after a tough day on the road. The support has been amazing and I think we've raised a good sum of money to try and eradicate something which is causing a lot of suffering.
"I think I said on my Just Giving site, we're all aware that we didn't have the best of seasons here but there are more fundamental issues going on in people's lives. Football is very important but there are things going wrong in people's lives that we want to stand alongside and help if we can."
"This was very tough but I was actually thinking about doing the challenge again," he said. "I think the Jigsaw appeal are doing it this week so I am thinking about that, but it is possibly a little bit too early.
"Having said that, my next challenge will be the Reivers Cycle Route in July. That starts in Whitehaven and goes up into Scotland across some hills and glens, then you end up at the same place as the C2C in Tynemouth. Like I say, I do enjoy a good challenge so that will probably be the next thing I do."
You can also text to donate. Text CUFC50 £5 to 70070 to sponsor Alun today.