Tuesday, 22 January 2019

Pair cycle, run and paddle 105 miles in just 24 hours

Pair cycle, run and paddle 105 miles in just 24 hours

TWO men from Henley cycled, ran and canoed 105 miles back home from the source of the River Thames for charity.

Former Olympic skier Graham Bell, 52, of New Street, and Ben Hargreaves, 38, a graphic designer who lives in Reading Road, set off from Kemble in Gloucestershire at midday on December 20 and arrived at the Angel on the Bridge in Thames Side almost exactly 24 hours later.

The pair were taking part in the Walking Home For Christmas Noon Til Noon challenge, which raises money for the services charities Walking For The Wounded and Help For Heroes.

Participants organise treks that end in their home towns according to their level of fitness.

Mr Bell and Mr Hargreaves decided to take part after raising £2,000 for the same charities by walking from Hammersmith to Henley in 2014.

They had no support vehicle for the challenge so took a spare change of clothes in backpacks and a supply of food and drink which they topped up by visiting shops along the way.

The men cycled the first 80 miles along the river from Kemble to Goring, mostly following the Thames Path but switching to roads when it was too muddy as it poured with rain for hours.

They pedalled throughout the night with only a few short breaks and arrived in Goring, where Mr Bell had left his car, just before 1am.

After changing their clothes, they slept until about 6am.

They then ran 13 miles to Caversham Bridge, going through Gatehampton, Hartslock Wood and Whitchurch before crossing the toll bridge and passing Pangbourne, Purley and Tilehurst.

The pair then climbed into a canoe which Mr Bell was keeping at a storage shed near the Rivermead leisure centre and paddled to Henley through Shiplake and Wargrave, arriving at 12.05pm. The men then headed straight for the pub and each enjoyed a burger, chips and a pint of beer before going home to rest.

Mr Bell, who was greeted by his wife Sarah and adult children Louis and Lottie, said: “It’s one of those ideas that came together over a couple of pints and we soon decided some kind of triathlon would work best.

“There was quite a bit of planning and I realised that cycling the majority of the route would allow us to divert from the footpath if we needed to, which saves time as there aren’t any gates or stiles to get over.

“We didn’t start fund-raising until after we finished as we weren’t totally confident that we’d do it but I’m pleased to say we did and hopefully people will now support us.

“We didn’t want to have a support team so I took a few precautions like leaving some flasks of hot chicken soup in my car at Goring, which was incredibly welcome by the time we got there.

“There was one section near Cricklade where the path was completely flooded and our feet got soaked but we still enjoyed the beautiful scenery and pressed on because it wasn’t worth getting our spares wet.

“It was pretty hard getting up to run after such little rest and recovery, especially with the hill at Whitchurch, but conversely the canoeing was surprisingly easy because we had the wind and a stream behind us.

“We were relieved to finish as we’d burned so many calories and really needed those massive great burgers.

“The pub didn’t know we were coming but they didn’t mind even though we were smelly and filthy!

“I enjoyed it, albeit in a masochistic kind of way, as it was very motivating to travel towards a goal instead of just running or cycling on a circuit with no particular destination.

“You feel like you ‘own’ your achievement much more and it’s rewarding to have worked out all that extra stuff for yourself.”

So far, the pair have raised almost £300. To donate, visit www.walking

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