By Kieran Power

According to research by JustGiving: "People fundraise for many different reasons, but the three factors that are most important to them are because they want to do more for charity, to raise awareness of the charity or just because they want to raise as much money as possible” 

I’m not going to disagree with that - when I decided in January 2019 I was going to raise money for Support in Mind Scotland (SiMS) those three factors were high on the list. The other was continuing to boost my own health and wellbeing by helping others.

I completed my first serious effort of charity fundraising in August 2018 – raising money for Children with Cancer and Leukaemia Advice and Support for Parents (CCLASP), cycling from Musselburgh to London in 2 days (445 miles), solo, unsupported and uneducated on charity fundraising before completing the London Triathlon the next again day. Why? The charity was local, it is a fantastic charity with a great cause – I cycled past their support bus on Edinburgh roads one afternoon and thought that’s perfect - but the real why was I needed something to highlight my worth. You can do and achieve whatever you want if you believe and trust yourself in full.

Fast forward to January 2019 and still riding the wave of euphoria of completing something completely bonkers – I wanted more, wanted to do something I was deeply rooted into helping . . . raising money for a mental health charity.

Let’s find a mental health charity that is local, has the correct values, fights for the right people and has a history as long as I have lived – that will be Support in Mind Scotland

I’ve had my troubles in the past, some back in 2014, some even recent, long periods of uncertainty in myself and short periods of even blacker days and nights. Your mind plays tricks on you and there is no definitive solution that will work for everyone – for myself, it was persevering and dragging myself out of the hole alone using people, friends, family along the way despite them not realising – others may find solace in talking and listening to others. I probably fall into the stereotypical category of ‘I had no idea he felt as low as that, he was always being the joker’.

What fundraising effort could follow on from London the year before to catapult my mindfulness away from the dark days of years before? My recent talent must be endurance, yep definitely endurance, so let’s take a week off work in the summer and cycle the circumference of Scotland. Perfect. Now let’s find a mental health charity that is local, has the correct values, fights for the right people and has a history as long as I have lived – that will be Support in Mind Scotland. Great, ready to go.

Let’s cycle round Arthur's Seat for 24 hours. The irony isn’t lost on me that that sounds….well, mental.

Woah! The mainland of Scotland has coastline of 6,000 miles. A month off work and a lorry of chamois cream for my shorts and tender bits was maybe a step too far (to be continued that one…). I was keen to at least learn from Musselburgh to London and not go into something ‘naively’ – researching the route every lunch on google for a month and relying on my commuting and racing fitness condition – let’s find a challenge closer to home but one that will wet the appetite of people to get behind, one unique. Let’s cycle round Arthur's Seat seat for 24 hours. The irony isn’t lost on me that that sounds….well, mental.

As per the year before, these things gather pace as soon as you put a JustGiving page together, ‘the first official step to fundraising’ – documenting it in the public domain – can’t back out now. At no point was I worried about the mileage included in this ‘challenge’, it was unlikely I would surpass the 210 and 235 miles to London but I was worried if my pigeon-like body would break climbing a total ascent close to Mount Everest in 24 hours (29,000ft). My cycling club Musselburgh Roads Cycling Club, friends, family, randoms and the charity itself were fantastic in boosting my confidence that I could take on such a task.

A few days out from the Friday 21 June start I received a phonecall from a team-mate and friend within the cycling club. “Alright KP, talk to me … what you got? What do you need? When are you starting? Where is the focal point? Who is interested? Do you need coffee? You’ll need coffee. Water? Bacon? You’ll need that, bacon and porridge”. Mark, regimented to the extreme that you could guess his background. My only question back the way was “time are you getting there on Saturday morning and leaving?” A short laugh and “I’ll be there for the full stint mate”. A man that clearly loves an epic and believes in the mental health awareness push from his own working background. It was on.

Friday, 21 June

2pm: Go have a nap Kieran, it’s going to be a long, long 24 hours.

6pm: After lying in my son’s bed for 4 hours and only obtaining half of that in full sleep it was time to get ready. Mark was taking care of everything; food, water, reserves, mechanicals – so I dropped my bag of cycling clothes changes (another London knowledge saver) and started cycling to Arthur Seat from Musselburgh for a 7.30pm start

8pm: Myself and 2 others from the club start to nagivate and circle the seat at a steady, steady pace and bump into well wishers on car, foot at the top of the bottom. A man walks a ferret for its bedtime routine, surely not hallucinating just yet?

9pm: Lap 3 and 4 passed and I already had doubts that I could continue this for a further 22 hours or 50 odd laps. I was being resilient to hold my own pace and not follow those that wanted to up it from lulling, this was ‘my race’. 7mph up the climb 18pm freewheeling from the top down to the bottom. Steady, steady.

Sean and Gillian, friends of the charity, cyclists and keen beans have been up on the Seat mid lap, writing down encouraging words, acronyms and phrases in chalk on the hardest part of the climb. This tactic would work well towards the end of 24 hours as you knew once you passed the chalk writing the burn would ease.

10pm: The first of many refuel stops. Mark had positioned his car at the top car park, decided against the gazebo and had a temporary grill, gas cylinder, endless coffee and rehydrated food for me and anyone who wanted it. He would prep, cycle, refill and cycle more.

Saturday 22 June

12am: This was summer solstice and it was never properly dark, we’re joined by 2 more riders and boast a healthy number of 5 in the middle of the night.

1am: A gaggle of girls shout from an open taxi at the bottom of the descent at the roundabout closest to the Commonwealth pool. It was my fiancée and her work colleagues returning from a night out. They produce a Dominos pizza and bottle of beer from the taxi. Legends … and how are we getting that pizza back up the climb horizontal? Some expertise bike handling shown from one of the most experienced riders in the group to get it to the top. The pizza lasted 5 and a half minutes.

3am: I’ve already had breakfast porridge mixed with custard, a first and not a last. We’ve lost two riders but another has turned up concerned I would’ve been on my own at this point. We take in the sunrise together at the top as a group, a bucket list of doing this on Arthur's Seat ticked off.

6am: Approaching halfway and still feeling fresh, the 9pm and early incline doubts are a big distant memory as I’m familiar with the routine, when to lift the effort, when to break, what line to take.

7am: Another batch of bacon rolls inhaled and my 10th cup of coffee.

8am: We’re joined by riders that departed the night before, others clock off and different clubs are starting to be represented. I lost count after 6am what support had been given but would soon work it out again with a fresh mind. It’s 12 hours in and I’m buzzing to reach halfway, still energetic to keep social media updated.

9am: Colin from SIMS has run up Arthur's Seat to see if A) I’m still alive and B) I’m still alive. We chat and it reminds me why I’m still here. My fiancée turns up again to keep me motivated.

10am: Let’s get to lunchtime and we can take stock for the final run in. Park is getting busy now.

12pm: Lunchtime, more bacon rolls, more water and more coffee (lost count on what cup this is now). I’ve a completely new team cycling with me but Mark is still here after clearing up for the 4th time and chasing us round.

2pm: I recognise someone I know on the descent and turn back as the group pedals on. He has a plastic bag of everything your dreams want in depleted calorie moments – Lucozade, wine gums, chocolate. We talk about everything that isn’t cycling for 10 minutes and I go on search of the group – they thought I had turned and pedalled off – either in abandon or my first enforced toilet stop.

4pm: My family turn up and my son Finn is striped and ready to rock. He is a keen cyclist himself at 7 years old and is beyond his years on a number of sports/life. He descends these new roads for him with energy and enthusiasm that perks me up for the final countdown.

5pm: It’s hard now, I put some cold gel on my Achilles, feet and knee. For the first time it’s back down to just me and Mark. My family and 8 riders have just not long gone.

6pm: A couple I briefly know through the cycling scene turn up on a tandem. They’re like a bullet in the night as you sit behind them drafting their wheels. Mark whispers in my ear to keep it easy for the last efforts under 2 hours but the pace they set was infectious to sit behind. The drop me at the foot of the climb at 7pm with 30 minutes to go. Those 4 laps turned out to be my fastest of the 24 hours at 24mph average (race pace).

7pm: 2 laps to go and 3 bodies have turned up to take me up and over to the line. We navigate the roundabouts at Holyrood Palace a couple of times on my orders to ensure that the last climb to the car park would ensure 200 miles bang on, stuff going round one more time to get over and 202.

7.30pm: 24 hours and I had enough energy to sprint on the finish line created by a handful of supporters. I stop my GPS and take hold of the beer thrusted in my hand. Possibly the best beer I’ve ever had.

We’re all capable of great things when we put our mind to it. Don’t underestimate the power, strength and inner-belief you will get from helping others

I was extremely lucky to have the support of 36 different riders throughout 24 hours. Additionally, 20 different people not on bikes coming to support. Mark was the true selfless champion. He himself cycled 140 miles and never stopped doing things for me when I refuelled and recharged.

The kindness and generosity shown by them and donors towards me and the great charity that is Support in Mind Scotland is something they should be proud of. We’re all capable of great things when we put our mind to it. Don’t underestimate the power, strength and inner-belief you will get from helping others. Those who supported I’ll never forget. 200 Arthur's Seat miles and 2/3 of Mount Everest elevation is dedicated to all of them.

KP

To keep up with Kieran you can follow him on twitter @Kieranpower85