London to Brighton by Bike
PUBLISHED: 15:16 29 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:47 20 February 2013
More than 27,000 people took to their bikes to raise more than £3.5million for the British Heart Foundation in the annual London to Brighton 2011. Suzanne Kimber, of Pulborough, and her team were among them.
More than 27,000 people took to their bikes to raise more than 3.5million for the British Heart Foundation in the annual London to Brighton 2011. Suzanne Kimber, of Pulborough, and her team were among them. Here is her diary
2.30am: Aarggh! Just cant sleep! Too wired to lie here any more time to get up.
3.55am: I wander, bleary-eyed and yawning, down to the main road to await my ride
4am: Im waiting to be picked up under the lamp-post, dressed in black and pink, complete with a frilly black-and- pink tutu. A car is pulling over. It does occur to me that this might not be my friends!
5.30am: We park near Clapham Common, and join the rest of our group. Our team of 10 is: Steph Thompson; Sue Stacey; Anneke Lilley; Charlotte James; Jackie Lewis; Susan Easton; Kirstie Holliday-Williams; Sophie Slater; Kersti Viccari and Suzanne Kimber. To see us all kitted out identically in black and pink biking in convoy towards the Common is a very proud moment for me!
6.30am: Everyone is queuing for the start of the ride. Its not the cattle herding process you might imagine. Its a more organised affair, with people calmly filing beneath the start banner, encouraged from the side-lines with fairground-style characters dressed up, commending all our efforts for the ride to come.
We decided at an early stage to raise money for Cancer Research UK. Most of us in the group have been affected by cancer. My riding partner, Sue, lost her father a few years ago to cancer. He bought a new mountain bike, hoping to get fit, but sadly only used it twice before his death. She was resolute that she wanted to use his bike for the ride, made all the more poignant because it was Fathers Day. We all knew this ride would challenge us, but our fundraising gave us a real purpose and helped us to focus on why we wanted to succeed when training was hard. Our friends and family have been incredibly generous and supportive. So far, we have raised over 3,000 between us.
7.45am: The route becomes noticeably rural after the M25. Im struck by the feeling of unity among the thousands of strangers, glimpsed briefly back in London, who bump into me (literally!) in the very narrow How Lane, near Coulsden.
9.30am: Were hauling ourselves up Turners Hill and a woman rolls up beside me, asking how far it is to the big oneDitchling Beacon? Shes trying to work out when is best to chomp on her snacks and slurp energy gel. We distract ourselves by chatting for the remainder of the hill, discussing riding and snack tactics until the top whenI rejoin Sue.
10am: We pass Ardingly and Wakehurst. While this is quite flat and open, I recall how far it seems when I drive to Wakehurst from home we still have some way to go gulp!
10.30am: Passing through Lindfield and Wivelsfield, the roads become hillier. The villages here are gorgeous, and bathed in sunshine. Local residents are out, cheering us all on, with children trying to high-five everyone! I wonder if well make it to Brighton before the heavens open
11.10am: We reach Ditchling village and head to the bottom of the one weve all been waiting for, Ditchling Beacon. Were asked to stop and wait a while as the hill is too congested.
Like a mist slowly descending, dampening spirits and quelling enthusiasm, a sudden transformation occurs among the riders as they climb and climb45 miles into the ride and so far, all of the groups have been chatting jovially to each other.
But now, the atmosphere is heavy. I focus on my breathing and notice an eerie silence. I hear nothing but the sound of laboured breathing on all sides. No-one is talking. Were about halfway up, trees are enveloping us on both sides, and its dark. We keep pushing on; Sue (a marathon runner) goes ahead while I go down the gears.
I cant bear the silence any more; its gruelling and were all flagging. Come on we can do this! I shout aloud (willing myself along). I stand up on my pedals, shift up the gears, and start pushing a pace to get to the top. Im accompanied by others joining in and cheering too. The ice has been broken, were one again, all fighting to conquer Ditchling Beacon. The trees are behind us and suddenly the skies lighten to reveal beautiful views in a sweeping expanse to the left of us as we approach the summit we can see its within our grasp. Just a few more seconds, keep pushing, keep breathing, keep weavingfinally weve done it. Wed successfully navigated our way through the wobbling riders and stumbling pedestrians and emerged triumphant at the top of Ditchling Beacon!
11.19am: Whoops of exultation and congratulations are all that can be heard among the crowds as we ease off the effort. Some disembark to recover.
11.40am: Pushing through the high winds, the familiar landmarks of Brighton are a sight to behold. Crowds line the streets and are cheering as we approach the promenade and make our way to the end. Support has been amazing throughout the ride, and its with great pride and emotion that we cross the finish line, 5hrs and 10 minutes after we left Clapham Common.
Suzanne Kimber is a level 3 REPs qualified Advanced Trainer. She runs 1-1 training and group fitness classes in Pulborough, West Sussex.