Ten Years Of Crazy!
2019 Marks a very special anniversary for me. It's ten years since I began a series of hardcore fundraising challenges for charity. I've cycled the length and breadth of the UK, stripped naked in deep snow, jumped from an airplane, organised a community to walk together, run more miles than I can remember, and I also smashed a world record.
I've lost count of how much I've raised over the last decade, but it's in the tens of thousands of Pounds, which makes me smile everytime I picture it as a pile of cash being delivered to the charities I've supported.
In the beginning...
Back in 2009 it began with a walk in memory of Shaun's mum, Brenda, who died a few years ago from Motor Neurone Disease. We met in our local town precinct and walked through three towns, collecting money in buckets.
Run, Colin... Run!
With barely enough time to recover from that long walk, I'd organised for some of us to take part in the 'Leeds 10K Run for All'. It was Shaun's first long run, but he managed it, along with his sister and some friends, and we raised a boat load of cash through sponsorship and a party at a local pub after the run.
Four weeks later I embarked on something that I never even imagined would happen. I broke a World Record! I'd been planning to cycle from Leeds to Liverpool, and back, along the towpath of the canal (with the same name) for a while. I'd planned a three day expedition, camping overnight somewhere over the Pennines.
I set off just after 5.30am on the 6th of August with 10kg of camping equipment, food, water and other bits in my backpack. Ahead of me lay 128 miles of trans-Pennine canal towpath and ultimately, the end point, the Liver building in Liverpool.
My three-day plan changed pretty quickly. As much as towpath cyclists are frowned upon nowadays, I had a pretty clear route straight out from Leeds. Of course, I slowed down whenever someone came by, and I ALWAYS gave pedestrians priority, but once out of the city and in to open countryside I was able to gain speed.
I made it to Liverpool in under 12 hours. Amazing! Although my backside was raw. Imagine two patches of angry red skin, one on each cheek, worn away from the friction of the saddle and the 10kg of weight on my back. I decided to book a hotel for the night instead of camping out and set my alarm for 4.30am the next morning.
I wheeled my bike out of the hotel the next morning, my backside coated in nappy cream, still carrying my backpack, and headed back to the start of the canal. I'm not going to lie. It was pretty grim! It was dark and I was in a massive amount of pain, but I put my head down and just belted as fast as I could (again, slowing down and giving way to pedestrians). Before long I was in Wigan, passing the very underwhelming pier!
Weirdly, the miles passed quicker going east than they did going west the day before. Foulridge (the halfway point) came and went. From there, all the locks were down hill. Skipton, Bingley and Saltaire passed, and I was flying down towards Rodley when I got a puncture! I had a spare inner-tube so I just swapped them and binned the punctured one.
I arrived back at Lock no. 1 just before 5pm where Shaun was waiting for me. My legs were covered in mud, I was dizzy, exhausted, and my backside felt like I'd been sat on a burning grill for the last two days, but I'd done it. Leeds to Liverpool and back in a record breaking time of 22 hours and 38 minutes. (I still hold that record).
Check out the original vlog at Leeds & Liverpool Canal Record Breaking Blog
That bike ride took some recovering from. My backside took two months to heal. TWO MONTHS! I originally planned to do it again to try and beat my record time, but I decided against it, mainly because it would have been dangerous to people using the towpath.
Further, Faster, Harder!
I needed a bigger challenge, something harder, longer and more challenging, but what...?
How about cycling the length of the country? From Land's End to John o'Groats, alone, unsupported, and complete it in a week? Ha! So that's what I did.
On Wednesday the 14th of July 2010 I took the train to Penzance and stayed overnight in Sennen, just a few minutes from Land's End. What followed was the most intense eight days of my life! Apart from almost getting killed on day one, every day I pedalled up to 130 miles through heavy rain and gales. My knees gave up on day three, and I was left at the side of the road in tears, unable to walk, never mind pedal!
I talked about giving up a few times, knowing in my heart that there was no chance I'd actually stop. Tears and phone calls to Shaun always made me feel better, and gave me the energy I needed to push on. The days passed and the mileage increased. By day four I was in the Lake District.
I was halfway through my journey and my knees were getting worse. Every day I had to stretch and pedal very slow to get them moving. By the end of each day I could barely walk! Day five took me across the border from England to Scotland.
The weather up till now had been wet and windy. Every day I'd reached my destination soaked to the skin and spent the evenings drying out my kit and cleaning down my bike ready for the next day. However, upon reaching Scotland, things took a turn for the worse! The worst summer storms for 17 years battered me as I struggled to reach Pitlochry on day six. I just managed to get into town before they closed the road due to flooding.
The next morning I was stranded by floods. Unable to take my planned route, I took some advice from the B&B manager and worked out a diversion. It was an extra few miles, but all on the very busy A9 towards Inverness. I waded through the knee deep flood water (much to the annoyance and shouts from the local Police) and pedalled off along this dangerous dual carriageway.
Thankfully, I made it to Inverness in once piece, and was welcomed by the nicest B&B manager I'd met so far. He even made me a packed lunch to take with me the next day.
On the final day the rain held off, but the wind picked up. 40mph gusts and a steady 20mph headwind all the way from Inverness, 104 miles up the north east coast to John o'Groats. Again, Shaun was waiting for me at the end and we made our way back to Inverness to stay the night in a hotel. We ate the biggest burger meal EVER!
My adventure through the wind and rain earned me the title of 'Hardcore LeJog'er of 2010'. I was proud, knackered, knackered, knackered... You get the idea. #knackered.
If you'd like to check out the whole eight days in detail, with maps, daily blogs, photos and videos, check out my original Land's End to John o'Groats Blog
Snow way to make a living!
Towards the end of November 2010 it turned cold. VERY COLD! We had 18 inches of snow and it was about -10c for weeks, remember? I'll never forget it!
The next few days got really weird... It started when I posted on Facebook. "If someone donates £20 to the charity page I'll go and clear snow from our path NAKED!" (what have I done?) Within an hour £300 had been donated. Oh sh*t! Well, a deals a deal!
The problem was, I got greedy. £300 was cool (although shovelling snow in the nuddy was FREEZING!). The photo started going viral across social media and the money started pouring in. I got a message from someone who spotted a large icicle (no puns please), hanging from our guttering. "Pose nude with the icicle and I'll donate £100". How could I refuse...?!?!?
Any normal person wouldn't have gone out there in the first place, never mind posed with a giant icicle (it was a sensation I never want to feel down there again). BUT... the money was adding up. £3,000 in three days! Another request came in. "I'll give you £300 to do a naked snow angel!".
Please.... Please don't judge me :-/
The photos all went viral. On the 1st December 2010 I was actually trending on Twitter! Thousands of people were messaging me. I even got a couple of (very) inappropriate offers from two well know celebrities! My Facebook and Twitter accounts were inundated with new followers. Newspapers, magazines, television and radio news networks from around the world were chasing me for an interview (Check out the video below). Money was pouring into my charity page. It was like a whirlwind!
Phew! What a ride that was! From a joke status on Facebook, within a week my frolicking in the snow had brought in over £12,000. Some people asked if I felt stupid? Absolutely! Do I regret it? Hell no!
The naked snow photos earned me a reputation which led me to take part in a naked charity calendar in 2012 for national estate agent chain, Whitegates. The calendar went on to sell well (despite my photos) and earned ££££'s for charity.
In the summer of 2012 I organised a group skydive. Friends, family and work colleagues joined us as we jumped out of a plane at 15,000 feet, free-falling at 125mph for 15 seconds before launching our parachutes and gliding (safely) back to earth. We raised thousands and had a fantastic day! (although I'll never do THAT again!)
Ice Ice Baby!
In 2014 the Ice Bucket Challenge spread across the world with celebrities, world leaders and us humble beings all throwing icy water over each other in the name of Motor Neurone Disease sufferers. I had no idea Shaun had a bag of flour ready! I thought it was just two buckets of icy cold water.
Now I need your help!
To celebrate a decade of fundraising I am taking part in the 2019 London Marathon. I have secured a place, running for the National Autistic Society (A charity close to my heart).
Training is going really well, and I'm looking forward to experiencing the fantastic atmosphere on the 28th of April. Now that you've seen me in so many painful, embarrassing, and quite frankly humiliating photos and videos, I'd really love it if you could sponsor me by donating to my Just Giving page.
Any support, large or small is MASSIVELY appreciated. Thank you! xxx