I have been chinned by a friend for not having posted about an event I did last June. So I am about to redress that balance, but in doing so I do feel a little uncomfortable about how boastful it might sound.
I heard last April that a friend’s brother had been quite seriously injured when he was hit by a car while training for the Austin-Houston section of the MS150 charity ride. So severe were his injuries that he was airlifted from the accident site to hospital where he underwent emergency surgery on his legs, pelvis and neck. He had one surgery on his pelvis which has now been fixed, and numerous surgeries on his leg as it was badly crushed. The bone in his leg was replaced with two metal rods to act as his “bone”. He has since had a skin graft on his leg to help close the wound. He was also fitted with a “halo” neck-brace to help sort out the torn ligaments, and while this all left him pretty much immobile for 4 weeks, he made remarkable progress and was discharged from hospital three months later. My friend Harriet had flown right over to Texas to see him within days of his accident. What she didn’t tell us at the time was just how much of a real chance there had been that he would not make it, and if he did, there was no immediate way of knowing what the future might hold.
Now Duncan is a remarkable character and one of his big worries was not being able to ride in the event – a 150mile ride between Houston and Austin – and do his bit for helping the MS charity. He had been part of a team entered by his workplace and he’d decided he wanted to be the top fundraiser in the team. He had raised around $400 at the time of his accident and was still well short of what he’d hoped for.
Enter a wee plump middle-aged Scot stage right.
Always a sucker for a story like that, I got the craziest notion in my head about cycling the 150miles for him. A trip to the Lone Star State was out of the question and anyway we’d missed the actual event. So, on June 5th and 6th I substituted the Texas roads with a stretch of the A6 corridor between Penrith and Shrewsbury, a route chosen not just because it is a section of the well-mapped Lands End to John O’Groats route but also so I’d end up at Harriet’s house in Crew Green for a slap-up meal and a bed for the night. Harriet drove the “support vehicle” alongside me every bit of the way which was a great comfort blanket to have. It was not a very difficult route but there were some hills along the way (including Shap) which meant it was certainly not a teddy bears picnic either.
We had named the event Doin’ the Distance for Duncan and we were overwhelmed when with the support of friends and family, we got Duncan’s initial total up to over $3200. MS is a terrible disease and it is nice to think our money could play a small part in finding the cure for it. We were also totally unprepared for the amount of support and love generated by the ride (Philipe and Albert’s amazing online ops room management was something to behold) and it certainly helped me up Shap and that unexpected big bugger of a hill a few miles from the end.
Duncan has made significant strides (metaphorically and literally) in his progress and we wish him all the best for a full recovery. He is a remarkable character who has suffered the pain of a major accident and the boredom and frustration of a slow recovery with great resolve and endurance. I am glad I played a part in this story, but my part pales when compared with his. Am I a “hero” as some of my friends claim? I don’t think so. I did what I’d like to think most decent human beings would do in the circumstances. And I will confess to a little bit of selfishness in that the event gave me a focus that I was missing at the time, as I was in a period of not knowing whether I had a job to return to after the summer break. It also helped cement a number of newer friendships, not the least with Harriet, Duncan’s sister, and her lovely family. Duncan’s kind words in his Christmas message also meant a considerable amount to me, and all of these things make me feel quietly proud.
I have in my head now an even crazier notion that the only way to round off this particular circle would be for me to go over to Texas and do this or next year’s event alongside Duncan, even if his part is only a few yards. We will need to see however. I’m told it’s just a little bit warmer in Texas than it is here ( 😉 ). That’s one heat I could stand though.