Hywel J
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It's done. #AZChallenge

Hywel J
Posted by
13 Dec 2013

"I challenge you to cycle to somewhere in the UK for every letter of the alphabet! When you are there, you need to take a photograph, to show where you have been."

It's been eight long months since I started this challenge.  When I accepted it I hadn't really considered the amount of time, effort and support I'd need to get through it.  I'm a pretty stubborn sort of bloke, sometimes far too stubborn for my own good, but I was offered a mission, I chose to accept it, and chickening-out was never going to be an option.


The AZ Challenge, dreamt-up from the darkest and most terrifying depths of Naomi's imagination, looked reasonably straightforward when I first saw it.  All I had to do was ride to a place for each letter of the alphabet.


"You didn't think about this properly.  If I do my regular 30km route I could knock off P, S, W, B, G, T and C in about an hour."


Telling her that was, perhaps, my first mistake.  My second was specifying rules myself.  Still, it's meant to be hard, or what's the point?  It's also easier to ask people to give money to something that they'll think is difficult.  I couldn't ask people for money if all I had to do was ride a bike for a few hours - I'd have to ride it for a lot of hours.


When I look back I don't know where the time went, but struggling back from Stratford-on-Avon, the second AZ ride back in April, seems so fresh in my mind that I can still feel the exhaustion as I climbed back up Cleeve Hill.  Completing the challenge felt such a long way off; I was two rides in and already tired.


Most of the time I was out enjoying myself, often with friends, even with someone I'd not met in real life, but someone who I'm now proud to list amongst my friends.  Sometimes the going was tough, but I knew I could do this; occasionally I desperately needed to quit and get back in the car, and call it all off.  Physically it's been reasonably plain-sailing, but at times it's been emotionally draining, especially towards the end.  I'd been so wrapped up in it for so long that I became anxious about not having it any more.


I became obsessed with weather forecasts, checking the coming weekend's weather as soon as I returned from a ride.  I know that any forecast more than a few days ahead is useless, but I checked anyway, dreading seeing rain predicted.  When people talk about summer 2013 they say things like "We were lucky with summer this year."  I remember it differently.  I remember riding to Bromyard in the rain, getting caught in a storm on the way back from Ledbury, getting rained on in Cirencester, fixing two punctures in the pouring rain on my way to Yarmouth, and being pushed about all over Dartmoor on my way to Ilfracombe during Stormageddon II.  If it was raining, you can be pretty sure that I was on my bike somewhere, hoping that I'd get home without a mechanical failure.


Of course, some of the rides went on in superb weather.  On our 200km epic to Abergavenny and back Big Dave and I had not one but two ice creams, and a pint of cider in Gotherington on our way back.  Phil, MJ and I stopped for amazing Dime Bar Tart in Evesham, sitting out in the mid-morning sun.  Jane, JT, Kelly, MJ, Naomi and I had coffee and treats outside a pub in Painswick as we returned from Jack's Green.


Without the support of Big Dave, Jane, JT, Kelly, Matt, MJ, Naomi, Neil, Phil and Tim I doubt I'd have made it. The rides on which they joined me (some on glorious summer mornings, some on dreadful autumn days) lightened the load and pushed me along on the solo rides. It's hard to explain, but I never felt that I was riding alone.


Pledgeit is a remarkable idea.  It can become all-encompassing; it makes me want to shout, "Hey!  Look at this!  Look. At. This!"  The nature of the giving draws people in; even those who aren't taking part get sucked-in and excited by it.  It's not always easy to explain to people what the AZ Challenge is - it takes a few minutes and usually results in a few questions - but it's easy to explain PledgeIt.  I know that there are thousands of people who'd benefit from being set a challenge.  I bet you know someone who's said, "I'd love to do that."  Well, tell them there's money for Leukaemia & Lymphoma Research in it if they have a go.  Call their bluff and say, "You know what?  You're always saying you'd like to do that but you're a bit nervous about it, but I know you can do it.  So, I challenge you to try."


What's next for me?  I don't know.  But it has to be bigger!



I've a cunning plan....


Well done . What an achievement and all for a superb cause


What a remarkable man. So much determination. You are a genuine inspiration to me. Congratulations on completing an epic challenge. And well done Naomi for setting it and giving you the drive needed to complete. Look forward to the next :) xx

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