Three letters which form possibly the most important word in our entire world. As well as being the favourite word for most infants it’s the reason behind virtually every discovery ever made. How many apples had fallen from trees before Darwin asked ‘Why?’, how many people had sat into a bath before Archimedes answered that exact question with ‘Eureka!’.
It’s one of the most regular questions I get asked when the topic of my cycle around the world comes up in conversation. My usual response is ‘Why Not!’. The reality is a little different however, between late 2010 and early 2013 I had spent a lot of time improving my own place in the world, both physically and mentally.
In April 2013, during Cycle Against Suicide while sitting listening to Bressie, Colm Hayes, Bob Carley (Watch his amazing TedX talk here) and others talk about their experiences of dealing with their own mental health issues I decided I wanted to follow their example and undertake a fresh challenge, something huge, something difficult, even impossible, something I could be proud of until the day I die.
I’d been aware of the tumbling world record for cycling around the world and had followed the progress of the inaugural World Cycle Race in 2012, and sitting on that classroom floor in Belturbet, Co. Cavan the idea came to me.
That huge, massive, impossible feat was going to be cycling around the world. I was going to enter the World Cycle Race. And in the mantra “It’s OK not to feel OK, and absolutely OK to ask for help” I’d found the reason important enough for taking on such a mammoth task.
Martin Kennedy, now the strength & conditioning coach for the Irish senior rugby team, invited me into his gym in Blanchardstown, Dublin. Six months of five am starts to cycle the hour to the gym, the two hour session and the cycle home again which dragged my sleepy head out of bed three or four mornings a week before the sun rose would create the physical base through which I gained the confidence and belief that I would be able to challenge the other competitors in the race.
FIT Magazine, a weekly supplement in the Irish Independent, agreed to take me on as a columnist for the duration of the trip and it was there that I laid out my strategy, derived from the old Aesop’s fable The Tortoise & The Hare a few weeks before I took off on the adventure.
The final piece of the funding puzzle came from my supporters, a few hundred people, family, friends, colleagues and neighbours who believed that I was capable of actually making my way around the planet. To be fair some probably didn’t actually believe it would happen, but still invested their hard earned euros buying one of my ‘rewards’ and showing the confidence in me that sometimes I even lacked in my own head.
With just over a week before departure I was featured on Irish national television on RTE’s Nationwide which brought the awareness of the project to a whole new level there was definitely no turning back now.
After a two day send off cycle from Leitrim across the entire country to Dublin I was finally on the road.
Just a few days later on the 1st of March 2014, I find myself at the start line of the World Cycle Race, standing astride my bike, with the city of London over my shoulder, shining in the midday sun, like a homing beacon, flashing within sight, almost within touching distance across the river but really being the entire world away. Just like an optical illusion what seemed so close would prove to be 30,000km in the saddle and 490 days away.
Starting tomorrow, the third anniversary of the start of the race, I’ll be retelling the entire story here with a complete daily post of my adventure from start to finish. Long time followers may recognise some of the stories but there will be some brand new tales which weren’t shared during the race or were not included in my bestselling book ‘Pedal The Planet‘ which was released in September 2016.