There is no doubt that charity and sportive rides have become so ubiquitous that you could easily take one on nearly every weekend of the year, and not have to travel particularly far to do it. They vary, of course, in length, terrain and philosophy.
The Farleigh Hospice ‘Cycle for Life’ event (http://www.farleighhospice.org/cycleforlife.cfm) is well-established, traditionally offering shorter distances of 20km and 50km and rooted very firmly in raising money through sponsorship. There are no timing chips or gpx downloads of the route – the map and directions are provided in printed form on the day. I like the philosophy. It’s just £10 to register, for which you are sent an information pack and t shirt. There is no minimum sponsorship – all participants are just encouraged to do as much as they can, a formula that seems to work. I have enjoyed doing the 50km rides in 2011 and 2012 (in 2011 I did it with my son, George, who managed the distance aged just 9).
This year, I signed up for the new 70km route that was offered, although the two shorter routes remained, ensuring an even wider appeal to all sorts of cyclists. I have been raising money in memory of my grandma. As a retired nurse, the hospice meant a lot as her retirement was spent raising money with her neighbour and nursing various family, friends and neighbours during their last few weeks of life.
The organisation was better than ever this year. Signing in was straightforward and the route map referred to above was clear, with every change of direction detailed. As always, a mechanic from Cycles UK was on hand, offering free checks before the event started. He was kept busy! The new longer route seemed to have attracted a few who perhaps considered the 50km route too short, and numbers grew steadily as the 8.30am start approached:
I wondered whether the 70km would simply comprise the 50+20, but instead we headed further afield, via Willingale and some of the Rodings to Hatfield Broad Oak (the 50km route includes all 7 Rodings) before returning via both Easters, Pleshey and Great Waltham. The weather was perfect, which always helps, but the quiet lanes chosen were a delight – a big thumbs up! In the end, there was no need to look at the map once – all turns were clearly signposted and the more major junctions were manned by cheerful volunteers. Water/feed stations were helpfully placed and well-stocked (although I refuelled on the go).
One feature of the route I particularly liked was joining up with the 20km participants for the last 6 or 7 miles. This was a reminder that the event appeals to just about everyone, young and old, who turns a pedal, and it was great to see families, in particular, enjoying themselves and feeling a sense of achievement.
Every rider was cheered back home at Farleigh, adjacent to Broomfield Hospital. I got back at 11am, 2 and a half hours after starting off. Refreshments were on offer and a Hog Roast would follow, although I headed off after collecting the certificate. An excellent morning and, even though it’s on a Sunday(!) recommended.
My phone spontaneously shut down after 36 miles, but this is most of the route minus the final descent down the hill through Pleshey and Great Waltham (click on the map to enlarge or click here http://www.endomondo.com/workouts/242800288/7755891):
And here I am post-event: