I have never before cycled 100 miles in a day. Taking part in this amazing event was fantastic. One can only marvel at the sophisticated planning and coordination between many different organisations and the thousands of volunteer helpers who cooperated that went into making it all possible.
There were 25,000 people of all ages and from every walk of life all taking part in this amazing event. For a day, it gave people on bicycles the freedom to ride together along some of the most wonderful streets in London, past some of our most prestigious parks and monuments, via some beautiful towns and villages and through the most beautiful countryside in the South East of Britain.
The majority of those taking part, including myself, were raising sponsorship for one charity or another. Between us we must have raised £millions for good causes.
All along the way, there were people on the roadsides, welcoming us to their neighbourhood and cheering us on.
To make everything even better, one could not have asked for a better day. The views from the top of Box Hill were brilliant. The summer sunshine brought out lots of people. The route was very well marked, complete with detailed warning markers, water stops and hubs where refreshments and loos were to hand. Everywhere people were to be seen picnicking, barbecuing, partying and enjoying the odd drink. What a fantastic atmosphere!
For all of this, taking part in an event of this kind is not without risk. With so many people with different levels of fitness and experience, all cycling together at different speeds along lanes which were sometimes quite bendy and narrow, it only takes a small thoughtless movement to upset the flow. I was sad to pass a few fallen riders receiving first aid.
Tragically, along with thousands of others I was held up having just begun the climb up Leith Hill. The whole procession came to a halt for about 40 minutes as a result of someone near the top suffering from a heart attack. A helicopter arrived on the scene in moments and for all the emergency first aid that the victim received, I was very sad to hear that it was to no avail. My thoughts go to their family.
It is no small feat for the ordinary punter to cycle 100 miles in one go. I have to admit that I had been training for months with regular rides up to several hours, as well as spinning sessions, to prepare for this event. Two weeks earlier, I had ridden up Leith Hill on a Wednesday and again on the Friday evening.
I was a little concerned that some of the riders did not seem to have trained sufficiently to take part comfortably. Box Hill is not very steep but it is quite a long way up. I noticed a number of riders trying to do it too fast and then getting completely out of breath and having walk from just part of the way up. As with most things, it may have been better for some to have progressed at a steady pace with a more comfortable heart rate.
Although, due to the delay on Leith Hill, my final time was 40 minutes shorter than I intended, I must say that I felt really glad to live in such a beautiful country and proud to belong to a nation having all the people willing to work together to make such an event possible.
It was a great feeling to cycle down the Mall to the finish having enjoyed the whole ride.
I am also extremely grateful to all the people who have so generously sponsored me to do this ride on behalf of the Sunflower Trust. It is not too late to donate if you have not already done so.
Mark O. Mathews