Preston students to tackle 24-hour Guild Wheel charity challenge
Two fitness fanatic flatmates have set themselves the ultimate endurance test - cycling for a whopping 24 hours around Preston's Guild Wheel to raise funds for two charities close to their hearts.
Ben Akin and Josh Reilly, who share a house in Walton-le-Dale, will be completing as many loops of the Guild Wheel as they can in 24 hours on November 28th.
They will be raising money for St Catherine's Hospice, where Ben's granddad Bill Akin was cared for in March, and Mind, in memory of Josh's dad John who he lost to suicide when he was just seven.
Ben, aged 27, said: "At St Catherine's Granddad was given as much comfort and dignity as possible in his last days. The hospice enabled us to be a family and provided the care that Granddad so desperately needed and deserved but we were unable to provide at home.
"No words will ever do the staff at St Catherine’s justice, nor do they ask for recognition or reward, they just continue to work tirelessly to aid people with life-shortening illness and their families."
Josh, 20, said as well as fundraising to help others, he hoped sharing his experiences would tackle some of the taboos that can still surround mental health problems.
He said: "In the past I have struggled to talk about the situation and how I felt. I suppose this is because I didn’t want to sound weak, or maybe even selfish. I just tried to crack on and avoided giving much attention to it. Although it has been over ten years, I will never forget the day we were told. It was a hard pill to swallow and still is difficult to comprehend, but luckily, I have a great family and they helped me, my brother, and my mum through the situation.
"The 24-hour, on and off-road bike ride, in the winter, in the dark, is going to be tough, but this feeling will be miniscule compared to how a person must feel when they are suicidal. As well as raising awareness of Mind and contributing towards their cause, it is important to me that everyone who reads this and is aware of what we are doing, is also aware that it is okay not to be okay, and it is important to talk and get help, especially at what can be a very lonely time."
Ben and Josh met at UCLan where they are both in their final year of a Sport and Exercise Science degree. Ben, a former Royal Marines Commando, is retraining to become a secondary school biology teacher and Josh runs his own personal training business in Preston.
Ben said: "We are both competitive athletes - Josh in CrossFit and I am a triathlete so cycling makes up a regular part of training for both of us, although the longest sessions I do on the bike are in the region of four hours so this is definitely unknown territory for both of us!
"We haven’t done any additional specific training for the event, we’re both fit, but this is predominantly a mental battle. It’s going to take us to some dark places for sure!
"Thankfully we have my girlfriend and our fellow housemate Alanis as support crew chief, making sure we’re fed and watered each lap. We will also have a host of friends and family join us for a lap or section thereof - whilst maintaining social distance - throughout the challenge.
"We’re really excited- we both love taking on the most outrageous physical challenges and they don’t come much bigger than 24 hours continuous cycling! We certainly aren’t taking it lightly, we know it’s going to be difficult but that’s the whole point."
Emma Jacovelli, Head of Community Engagement at St Catherine's Hospice, said: "This is a truly exceptional challenge which is going to take real guts and stamina to complete - we wish them all the luck in the world!
"Their support of the hospice has come at a really crucial time for St Catherine's as we try to work through the impact of the pandemic of our income. It's also fantastic to see them working so hard to raise awareness of the importance of looking after mental as well as physical health - something which is so important in the circumstances we're currently living in."
The friends have already raised nearly £1,100 but are appealing for as much support as possible to help them smash their £2,000 target. To sponsor them visit https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/benandjoshcycleThanks for reading. If you value what we do and are able to support us, a digital subscription is just £1 per month for the first two months. See https://www.lep.co.uk/subscriptions