Volunteer cycles 100 miles raising funds for AI

Volunteer and supporter Gemma Lovering is just about recovered enough from the Prudential Ride London-Surrey 100 bike ride to tell us all about her experience from the first mad moment of offering to do the bike ride as a fundraiser for us through to the exhilarating moment when she crossed the finish line…

Supporter and volunteer Gemma Lovering

Supporter and volunteer Gemma Lovering

It was about this time last year when I found out about the London – Surrey 100 mile bike ride challenge.

I found myself saying, “I want to do that to raise funds for African Initiatives”, a charity that is so close to my heart. However…

I didn’t have a bike.
I hadn’t done training for an event like this before.
And then there was the fundraising.

I’ll be honest, in the months leading up to 10 August 2014, the training didn’t go very well. There were a number of work commitments and then a number of friends (rather selfishly!!) getting married. My valuable weekend time seem to vanish before my very eyes.


Anxious about the looming deadline, I started cycling to and from work. Cycling home up Park Street in Bristol (a fairly steep hill for those who don’t know it) gave me some pretty serious hill training and weekly running helped with my general fitness. I did manage to get in a couple of long rides as well, between 60 to 70 miles.

However the days leading up to the event were nerve racking. Was the little that I had done going to be enough to get me round?

An early start for a four mile 'pre' cycle

An early start for a four mile ‘pre’ cycle

Saturday 9th August came all too quickly. With the car packed I left Bristol to register at Excel Centre in London before grabbing an early night before a very early start.

At 4am I cracked open an eye and realised this was it, no backing out now! By 6am I joined my fellow cyclists and we headed off together for the four mile ‘pre’-cycle ride (yes, really) up to the starting line.

Grey skies at the start

Grey skies at the starting line

Being a part of the 24,000 people at the start line felt amazing! Hearing the weather forecast was less so. It looked so bad that the organisers took a (very wise in my opinion) decision to detour round the two big hills on the route. This meant that the two aspects of the route I was dreading the most I legitimately didn’t have to do. What’s that saying about clouds and silver linings???

At mile 22 the heavens properly opened. I have never cycled through rain like it. All the way round the stewards and supporters did a fantastic job of warning us about hazards that we were approaching, whether that was ankle deep floods, accidents blocking the way or overflowing drains. The rain didn’t really stop until mile 60. And then the wind started to increase.

Despite the conditions I was doing so well, I was so proud of my legs for continuing to turn for such a long time. I’d only had one quick stop to refill my water bottles at mile 47.

 …a wonderful knight in shining armour came to my rescue”

And then my front wheel started to get more difficult to control. I was finding it really hard work. I looked down to see that I was practically riding on the rims. I needed to change my tyre. Thankfully a wonderful knight in shining armour came to my rescue, a very lovely member of the public who had seen my plight came over and fixed it. Whoever you are, thank you so very much!


Sunshine and success!

From there on in it was fairly straight forward. I knew that I would definitely cross that finish line. Cycling through Marble Arch and up the Mall was the best feeling ever.

6 hours 10 mins and 5 seconds was my final time. That was an average of 14.4 mph which is the best average speed that I have ever managed over any distance.

Thank you to all who sponsored me (it definitely gave me the determination to get round),
to all that put up with me being nervous, and all who have kindly listened to me excitedly telling them how amazing it was and how much I loved it.

And a HUGE ‘thank you’ and ‘well done’ to Gemma from all the team at AI. We’re extremely grateful for volunteers and supporters like Gemma who put themselves through the mill, tackling some really tough physical challenges as a way to raise money to support our work. If you’re up for a challenge why not have a look here to find out more about our latest challenges….