Monday 8 May 2017 10.53 BST
On 31 March I remember waking and looking at my phone to find an abundance of posts commemorating the life of cyclist Mike Hall. Hall was hit by a motorist in Australia and killed, just hours from completing the Indian Pacific Wheel Race which saw contestants ride across Australia unsupported, with the hardest riders pushing themselves for as much as 20 hours a day.
These incredible achievements aren’t done for giant cheques or coloured jerseys – the tangible rewards are just byproducts of a more personal journey. Such motives didn’t become clear to me until I took the plunge. I only realised the true extent on completing the London Wales London (LWL) audax – a 400km ride with a 27-hour time limit, vicious climbs including Yat Rock. The name alone held gravitas, bringing to mind professional races such as Liège-Bastogne-Liège and the legendary audax events of Paris-Brest-Paris.
The ride took us through the rolling Chiltern hills into the yellow-bricked landscape of the Cotswolds before passing into Chepstow and back across the Severn Bridge. Once over the halfway point, riders shuffled towards Lambourn before a final hurrah into the night to the finish line. The blanket of pitch black, the biting cold, the eerie silence and the lack of sleep all added up, gnawing away at my will to ride, drip feeding me ideas of capitulation.
After 25 hours of willing my body and mind to stay the course I finished at about 7am. The sun shone and strange ethereal warmth radiated from everything and everyone. I was completely shattered but also incredibly high. The distance no longer bore the weight it had before. This feeling of enlightenment made me realise why Mike did what he did. Chasing that harmony from one ride to the next, pushing his own boundaries of physicality and sharing the road with others like him.