The Strangford Sportive, October 4th, 2014.

I’ve just completed the fund-raising cycle and I guess that I’m still a little overwhelmed.

First, there was the physical challenge.

Six weeks ago I had never cycled further than Poundland on Boucher Road.  And when we picked the 80km route at the Strangford Sportive it seemed like we had weeks to get some training done and prepare properly for the cycle.  But I guess I’d forgotten about basketball, rugby and the pesky school thing – Year 11 and the start of that GCSE malarkey.

Despite dreadful weather on Friday, sunrise on Saturday brought clear skies.  I can tell you about the sunrise, because I was up while it was still dark – we had some last minute adjustments to make to the bike, pack the gear and head off to Delamont Park.

At Delamont Park, there was lots of activity. After a quick registration, we were ready to go.

It was bright, but cold as we headed off. The roads were still wet and as we cycled through the quiet country roads of the Down Peninsula we had to be careful about the roads – it’s potato-cropping time and the mud on the road made it very slippy. It wouldn’t look good if I crashed in the first few kilometres!

An hour into the cycle, we had worked off the early morning chill and were maintaining a good, steady pace. Up ahead somewhere was a food stop and it all seemed like it would be easy. I still thought the same two hours in – I had been able to enjoy the scenery – Strangford Lough was stunning in the sunshine, and we cycled through places called Shrigley, Stubbyhill, Quarterland, Stumphill and Legamaddy.

I also found out what ‘undulating’ means. Hills. Lots of them. And it was these hills that would prove my undoing. With about 12kms to go, there was the biggest hill on the route. A real lung-buster, up the side of Slieve Patrick and into Saul (where St Patrick died, March 17, 461 AD). By the time I got to the top of the hill, I was done and it was a matter of just hanging in there, and making it back.

Over the course of 3 hours, 55 minutes and 25 seconds, we climbed 849 metres (that’s 21 centimetres less than Slieve Donard, the highest mountain in Northern Ireland) and needed 15,000 pedal strokes to complete the course. I also needed two bananas, a cereal bar and a couple of litres of water as well.

But what was more over-whelming was people’s generosity.

When I decided to raise funds I thought that £250 would be a great target, then I thought that I might get lucky and get as far as £500. And when I created the JustGiving page, I decided to go wild and set £1000 as a target. This evening, as I type this note, donations for the Friends of the Cancer Centre have just passed £2000.


People’s generosity has been amazing. The staff and pupils in Aquinas were hugely generous, raising over £230 at a Bake Sale – thank you to everyone that made buns (thanks Mum!), those that helped on the day and everyone that purchased a bun, cookie or cupcake – I hope that they were delicious!

Friends also made donations; as did aunts, uncles and cousins. Friends of the family pressed notes into my hand and people that I had never met, or only met briefly appeared on the donation page. As each donation arrived, I continued to be amazed and not-a-little embarrassed.

In addition to the monetary donations, there were constant words of encouragement and support, and, believe me, I needed every bit of encouragement as I tackled the last kilometres of the cycle.

I would like to thank you all for your help, support and donations – this will make a real difference to the charity and the people and activities it supports.

If you would like to read the full story or to see more photos, I posted more to the JustGiving page:


Thank-you, Ciaran.