We were as people would say, a normal family, with two children: Stephanie our 18 year old daughter leaving to go to university and Sean our 20 year old son living at home and working full time. Carol and I were both working with long-established companies (Superdrug and Arriva North West). We were enjoying going on holidays and socialising through work and friends.
Carol was diagnosed with MS 9 years ago in 2005, at 44 years old. For the first few months like most people we had to adjust, asking ourselves just what this meant to us. For the first couple of years MS did not mean a lot - Carol was getting tired quicker and we were going through the feelings of wondering what was going to happen.
In the second year she had two bad relapses, thankfully recovering quickly within six weeks. A year later she had another relapse which brought home to us that things would certainly change in our lives. Carol found she would tire very quickly. Once, coming back from a holiday, we discussed whether we would take this sort of holiday again.
I started fundraising for the MS Trust in October 2008 and I did my first challenge in the Sahara in February 2009, quickly followed by a China Trek in Oct 2009. Since then I have trekked or cycled, at times with friends, over 4 continents:
- Trekked across the Sahara in 2009
- Walked the Great Wall of China in 2009
- Trekked Machu Picchu in Peru in 2010
- Cycled Blackpool to London to Paris in 2011
- Cycled in India in 2012
Sahara Trek 2009
Trekking in heat of up to 120°F, ensuring fluids are taken regularly, dealing with sandstorms and sharing a tent with six people over seven nights enables people to bond and share life's experiences.
One night we were warned about the storm at 01.00. It started and nearly blew our tent away! The tent next to ours had collapsed earlier - luckily our neighbours had moved to the big tent for more cover. This reminded us we were in the middle of the desert dealing with all elements of nature.
Sand and sun, but no deck chairs or bar
Neighbours' tent next morning
China 2009 - trekking the Great Wall
I was surprised at how much the wall wound around the landscape and the amount of steps. One day I was standing there taking in the ambience, realising just how old the wall was and how many people must have walked my steps previously. I could understand why this was one of the Wonders of the World. I shared a room and had a couple of games of cards. Made friends from Glasgow, working on my inter-country relationships!
The Wall goes on and on and on
My room mate with friends and family from Glasgow
Trekking Machu Picchu in Peru 2010
On arriving in Peru our first challenge was dealing with the altitude. It hit us as soon as we got to the hotel on the first day - just walking up the stairs with our luggage left us out of breath. The next morning we were up at 4am to start our short coach trip, then we started our trek along the trail, camping out for seven nights. I shared a tent with Mike from the Isle of Man. Our challenge over the next few days was dealing with a light head due to altitude and keeping our kit dry.
Walking through the mountain range - our highest height 5,000 mtrs
An amazing sight at the end of our trek
Blackpool to London to Paris - 3 Towers 2011
I hung my boots up and took to the bike. Pete and I signed up to do London to Paris and thought we'd forget getting the train - we would ride down and meet up with 30 other cyclists! We did 600 miles in eight days.
Our support vehicle from Blackpool to London
Me and Pete arriving in London - the Tower is somewhere around here
Me and Pete celebrating 500 miles in the saddle and still smiling (somewhere in France)
Arriving in Paris showing off our blue wigs and celebrating with Phil, who was 72 yrs old, on his third Paris trip also raising funds for MS
Coast to Coast 2011
Our first of two rides across the UK from St. Bees to Robin Hood Bay.
The wigs come out
The sign doesn't lie
India cycle 2012
We set off from Agra after visiting the famous Taj Mahal with a 400K ride to Jaipur, taking in some wonderful sights along the way and trying to avoid other road users. The first rule in India - there are no rules on the road.
I shared accommodation with Jim from St Albans who introduced me to a glass or two of local beer - just to replace the fluids he said.
An amazing sight to start our journey
This was a good road - wait until we get on the off road tracks
Can you ride tandem? One of our assistants who made sure we were well watered and fed.
Coast to Coast to Coast 2013
Having done it one way, why not do there and back to see how far it is? 297 miles in 3 days.
Leaving Southport with nine other cyclists ready to start our journey
The rain wasn't planned. Had to switch and get the high vis clothes on.
I met Jim on the India trip the year before and he joined us this year to raise funds for MS - who said the holiday romance wouldn't last?!
The sun came out for the last hour and shone for our final photo shoot. We were met by a few friends and family at Southport on our return. 297 miles in three days and the wind in our face for 250 of them.
To the past, current and future
Inspire seems to be a commonly used word these days, but over the last few years I have had some tremendous experiences and have met some very inspiring people. I have made a lot of friends who I have trekked or cycled with along the journey. Someday I will sit down and work out the mileage covered around the world but before then I have a few more challenges planned and funds to raise.
This year I plan to do a 12 hour cycling challenge at our local Tesco's store to raise awareness and funds. In August I have signed up to do the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 mile cycle. This challenge will be dedicated to past, current and future:
- Past - to my brother who I sadly lost unexpectedly last year. Taken from us at 46 years old due to a heart attack.
- Current - to my wife Carol, who has MS and who supports and encourages me to continue to raise awareness and funds. Her attitude inspires me to do an extra mile.
- Future - to our new born first Grandchild who is due to be born early August in South Korea
I am often asked why I do all these events. My answer is that when things happen in your life and you experience a life changing event, you appreciate your health and the small things in your life do matter. If I can change somebody's attitude or raise awareness to others, or if some funds that I raise go towards research and someday a drug can be developed, it would mean everything to us.
Since being aware of MS over the last nine years, the number of people with MS in the UK has gone up from 75,000 to 100,000. I never started off with a target but so far over the last seven years I have raised just short of £70,000. I want to continue to raise at least the same amount as there are people in the UK with MS.
If anyone would like to sponsor me please visit my fundraising page: virginmoneygiving.comRickHLondon2014