Emma and Neil’s story

Emma and Neil cycled from Liverpool to Leeds in 24 hours. Emma tells us their story.

The Idea

The idea for the bike ride came from a conversation that Neil and I had at work in April 2018. Neil mentioned that he had always wanted to cycle the Leeds to Liverpool canal in 24 hours, which is 127 miles in total. He had previously done a bike ride for St Ann’s and wanted to raise money again, so I agreed to do it with him even though I hadn’t ridden a bike in over 11 years!

St Ann’s is really well-known in our community- everyone knows somebody who has been cared for at the hospice, including myself. The care they provide is amazing and they need to raise £20,000 a day to continue providing all their current services, so it’s really important that they receive the funds they need so that they can continue looking after people in our community.

We knew we only had 8 weeks before the big ride, so we made sure we went out on our bikes every week and increased the mileage we completed each time. I didn’t even own a bike before we started our training so I had to work hard to make sure I was prepared!

The Big Day

On the big day I set my alarm for 12.15am so that we could pick Neil up at 1am to travel to Liverpool. My husband David and friend Lee drove us to the starting point and supported us throughout the rest of the journey, keeping us stocked up with food, drink and anything else we needed. We set off from Liverpool at 2.20am in the pitch black, with lights on our helmets so that we could see the way and didn’t fall into the canal! We did have a bit of a scare when we came across a fisherman who had set up his tent across the middle of the towpath, which meant we had to ride up the embankment to get out of his way.

It took us 5 hours to complete the first third of our journey. We stopped off at White Bear Marina in Adlington, Chorley, where we had a surprise visitor from my daughter who wished us luck for the rest of the day. At 43 miles into the journey, we were still in really good spirits and raring to get on with the rest of the ride.

We continued up through Blackburn and onto Burnley, where we lost our sense of direction a bit and had to call on David for help. We soon got back though and made it to the halfway point, which is near Accrington. We wanted to be there by 12pm and we arrived at 11.30am, so we were doing well! We stopped for a bit to refuel and to take some photos, then we set off again.

We stopped for a bit to refuel and to take some photos, then we set off again. To help us pass the time, we talked a lot and sang some songs, including Bohemian Rhapsody. It’s a good job that there was no-one else at that point as I’m fairly sure we ruined the song with our rendition! We saw some lovely sights along the way- beautiful countryside, horses playing on a bridge and cows queuing up to drink from the canal. We also saw some not-so-lovely sights, including a lorry disposing of waste into the water.

At 100 miles in and with less than 30 to go, the pain and fatigue really started to kick in. The ground seemed to get bumpier the further we got into Yorkshire- there were rocks and tree roots sticking out everywhere, which hurt every time you went over them. Neil’s knee had started hurting him after 20 miles, so by this point he was really struggling. At 19 miles to go, Neil seriously thought about giving up as the pain was so bad, but we had a little break and remembered the reason why we were doing this ride in the first place. We thought of all the people in St Ann’s Hospice and this was the encouragement we needed to complete the final stretch.

Neil and I didn’t say a word to each other during the last 10 miles as we were beyond exhausted. It was 8pm and had been on our bikes for nearly 18 hours. We eventually got into Leeds and could see the Hilton Hotel which is at the finish line. This gave us our final boost to get us to the end.

We got into the busy square in the centre of Leeds at 9.15pm, where we saw David and Lee beaming with pride and holding a bottle of prosecco to celebrate us reaching the finish line. In total it took 18 hours and 55 minutes from start to finish, with a ride time of 16 hours.

This was without a doubt the toughest thing we have ever completed, especially with only 8 weeks of training! The final amount of money raised for St Ann’s Hospice is £1800, which we are both so proud of, and made everything worth it.

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