For someone who didn’t even own a bike, signing up for a Lands’ End to John O’Groats cycle ride sounds like an odd decision, but as University of Cumbria senior nursing lecturer Craig Betton puts it, “I hadn’t done much cycling, but I was up for a challenge!”
In October 2016 Craig’s friend, Grant Ambrose, who is a specialist training manager with Cumbria Constabulary, invited him, along with a few others, to join him in achieving his long term dream of cycling the length of the UK before he reached his fortieth birthday. Craig’s response was to buy a bike and his serious training began.
“We clocked up over 1000 miles in training in all weathers through the winter months, and many weekends were sacrificed in getting fit for the event,” reports Craig. “In the end, four of us took part in the event – Grant and I were joined by Carlisle dentist Bill Taylor and Paul Griffiths, a CWU processing rep at Royal Mail.”
Just before the event, the support vehicle supplier let them down. Fortunately, however, Glenrental, a car and van hire company, stepped in at the last minute, not only supplying the team with a minibus free of charge, but even decorating the bus with the team’s names and graphics advertising the event.
Craig continues: “We chose two charities to support – Macmillan Cancer Support, and Carlisle lad Michael Johnstone, who was involved in a horrific accident in January leading to life-changing injuries. As Paul Griffith’s son was also involved in the accident, he chose to raise money in support of Michael.”
The cyclists set off one evening in July, travelling overnight by bus to Lands’ End.
“None of us got much sleep and we arrived at 07.00 in the morning to begin our first day of cycling – a ‘short’ 80 miles that day. All I can say about Devon and Cornwall is – “HILLS!” – we climbed 25 in the first day.
"Subsequent days varied between 99 miles and 134 miles, often requiring us to put in between eight and 12 hours a day on the bike.”
The cyclists were supported en route by a fantastic team comprising Phil Robinson and Norman Ambrose, who drove the van and provided welcome food and rest breaks throughout the days.
On day three they were involved in an accident, resulting in one of the riders coming off his bike. Injuries were minor fortunately, but the bike was significantly damaged requiring a diversion into Bristol for repairs to get them on their way again.
Craig sums up the adventure: “In all, we rode 988 miles, with a total elevation of 52,473 feet, and burnt 55,075 calories. We completed the journey in nine days, arriving in John O Groats on my 41st birthday!
“It was a truly epic journey, challenging both physically and mentally, but so worth it!”
Both ‘Justgiving’ pages are still open for donations:
For Macmillan Cancer Support go to https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/billgrantcraig
or for Michael Johnstone https://www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/paul-griffiths-2