There are numerous reasons to give the London to Brighton Bike Ride a go. Some of the 18,000 participants are driven by a charitable mission: family or friends affected by heart disease, keen to take part in the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) flagship event. Others are doing it as a physical challenge, while some simply fancy the delights of coasting through Surrey and Sussex’s glorious landscapes, en route to the seaside.
Then there are people such as Amy Thorley, who are doing it for all of the above reasons. After all, with every penny raised going towards the BHF’s pioneering research into cardiovascular disease, it’s a great way to improve your own health, and that of the nation at the same time.
If the going gets tough on the London to Brighton Bike Ride for Amy (main image), memories of her father will propel her forwards.
“I’ll be inspired by dad all the way,” she says. “I was a daddy’s girl, and he died of a heart attack 19 years ago, when I was 21. He’s still very much a part of me, and I talk to my three daughters about him all the time.
“He’ll help me through, and the fact this ride is for the BHF makes the fundraising, and the event, all the more personal.” Indeed, the 39-year-old is herself on an extraordinary journey, having resolved to lose eight stone over the past 18 months. She’s still got a couple of stone to go, and believes that training for the 54-mile trip — Europe’s oldest charity-organised bicycle event — will get her to that target.
“I’ve only just got into cycling and I hadn’t ridden a bike for a long time,” admits Amy (below with her partner Rob before she started training).
“In fact, the idea of me doing this ride, or a 5km park run, would have seemed ridiculous to me a year ago. I couldn’t have even walked 5km.
“I feel so much better now, but I needed a challenge to get that final weight off. In the past, fear might have put me off doing an event like this, but I’d say to anyone who might be wary of signing up, just do it. You might think you can’t do it, but you can. You may worry that your time might not be incredible, but that doesn’t matter. I’m doing it for my health, my family, and to raise as much as I can for the BHF.”
A sparkling ending
Amy is relishing the famous feeling of togetherness among those taking part in the ride, which has been the BHF’s flagship fundraiser since 1976.
“I can’t wait to be among thousands of people, many of whom will have similar stories to myself,” she says. “We will all be spurring each other on. I love riding a bike, too. It gives me headspace, which you don’t get much of as a working mum of three!”
It will be a family affair on the day.
“The BHF does amazing research,” Amy adds. “My dad never benefited from that, but my brother was diagnosed with a separate heart condition, and recently they found two holes in my mum’s heart. So it’s a charity doing work to help families like mine.”
And the message is being handed down the generations. “My daughters have been inspired by seeing their mum lose weight,” she says. “My eldest is playing rugby, and we all do runs together. It’s brought us all together and had a real impact on our health.”
After completing the ride, Amy hopes for a sparkling finish. “I’ll be opening a bottle of prosecco at the end,” she admits.
“And I won’t be spraying any round — I don’t want to waste it! I suspect I’ll be emotional. The end of the ride will be the culmination of 18 months of hard work — and I know my dad would be so proud of me.”
This year’s ride is on Sunday 18 June. Take on the challenge and help beat heart disease. Sign up now at bhf.org.uk/l2b2017