December 22nd is notable in my calendar for two reasons. First, it's my daughter Abi's birthday. Who knew 31 years ago that I would be doing the other notable thing, an overnight bike ride on the shortest day of the year and on a night where there were weather warnings galore?
Being a long distance cyclist was accepting that it was all I could become. Yes I could cycle a long way, and I loved to do this, but I felt I was deluding myself if I thought I could ever be even slightly competitive as a cyclist. Completing a long distance event in time, let alone a good time, was something that more capable & usually younger women did, not me. I would enter, because I liked the idea of a particular ride, and my aim was simply to complete it, hopefully in time. So what’s change my perspective?
There is significant evidence that there is a link between physical activity and improved mental health and wellbeing. The Royal College of Psychiatrists recognise exercise as a treatment for a wide range of mental health conditions. I believe it's no accident that mental health charities benefit so well from charity runs and cycle rides. Running and cycling are so inclusive, and participants come in all shapes, sizes and abilities. In these worlds there genuinely is something for everyone.
Despite having a lovely, but shorter ride in Wales, and knowing I had made the right decision to quite, the old feelings of doubt became to surface. What if I really am just not good enough? What if just getting there is always going to be this hard? Maybe I really should just give up this dream and go touring instead? But I had put so much effort in already, and a fair bit of money. I didn’t want to give up just yet....