Apologies for the delay in this final blog installment. Elation, exhaustion and being completely overwhelmed made it difficult to do anything, let alone anything productive, after finishing yesterday’s ride.
We made it. We actually made it. 6 days ago 7 of us set off up to Aberdeen not really knowing what lay ahead for us on the dual carriage ways, B roads, canal paths and dirt lanes we had to travel. We only knew that the journey back down south would take significantly longer than the hour and a half flight we’d just enjoyed.
The morning was overcast and unremarkable. Despite Rich’s alarm not going off and him and Andy having an extra 45 mins shut eye, as well as Andy having the extra task of changing a tyre, we set off relatively early, with our minds focused on completing the task and our hearts already in London.
After Monday’s dramatic A14 finish we managed to travel the 3 miles down the A1 without mishap, making it to Buckden, and the relief of quiet back roads, only slightly rattled. The aim was to get to Walkern, as from there we were firmly in Neil’s stomping ground and he could guide us to central London. By now the pure fatigue in our legs meant any form of incline was torture, and despite Lara’s spin class motivation playlist, the going was tough and onerous.
Although the trip lasted less than a week, we all discussed how strange it will be readjusting to our normal work routines. How checking emails, arranging phone calls and attending meetings will seem obscure compared to the singular task of getting on our bikes and riding south. How we’d have to revert back to respectable, normal work colleagues who didn’t scoff down food, make crude jokes or randomly start chanting ‘EIC C C’ at any given moment.
After a quick stop at Walkern we made rapid progress to Potters Bar for lunch. However, any time we’d saved from the quickened pace was dashed by eating at one of the slowest cafes imaginable. Richard, who ordered first but whose food came last, was particularly sullen and hangry until a warm panini lightened his mood. While we were in the eatery, the rain which had teased about falling all morning arrived in full to welcome us back to London. Although an irritation, we all commented how remarkably lucky we had been that the only rain we saw throughout the trip was for our last 20 miles and how completely different the experience could have been if we had been met by downpours or storms. With our waterproofs on we set off to tap out the final part of our adventure.
Potters Bar is just north of the M25 ring road and soon we were met the sounds and sights of Greater London, the red buses and black taxis, signs for Northern line underground stops, near constant traffic and honking drivers which cut you up without a second thought and the sheer mass of people which isn’t replicated anywhere else in the UK. It was becoming very real just how close to finishing we were.
At the same however it didn’t feel real, the surrealness and craziness of the situation, that only 6 long days ago we were up in Aberdeen and had made it to London purely on peddle power felt made up, like it just couldn’t be true. The days were some of the longest I’ve experienced but at the same time the experience went by so fast. Days blurred into one and experiences which happened the previous morning felt like memories from weeks ago.
After a final short climb the rain ceased and the sun appeared as we made our way through familiar boroughs, passing landmarks such as Trafalgar Square and the House of Parliament that we knew so well. With 3 miles to go and the office so nearly within our grasps our smooth sailing was impeded by Andy’s bike deciding that it had had enough. The fork completely came away from the handle bars, a break not seen before by anyone in the team, nor the employee in the cycle shop. Nevertheless, being one bike down did not stop us finishing as a team, and a conveniently placed Mobike (the sight of Andy cycling made Tom literally weep with laughter) meant we managed to make it to the office as one.
As we arrived we were overcome by the sounds of cheering, shouts of welldone and bouts of clapping as we were met by a mass of colleagues, family and friends. Hands were shook and hugs were received as the realisation that we had done it swept over the team. The feelings of surrealness, relief, disbelief, astonishment and shock were intense and overwhelming and these feelings were deepened by the amazing reception we received.
Photographs were taken (those taken by resident professional Terri will be linked to the blog at some point), bottles of bubbly popped, glasses chinked and backs patted as we made our way up to the office to a cereal-bar free spread of food and drink. The team, which as Stuart rightly stated in his speech, we had well and truly become, regaled colleagues with stories, complained about our aching bodies and received countless rounds of applause as well as a neat commemorative medal. Confirmation that we’d raised over £10,000 for our two charities was met by the loudest round of clapping and cheers.
And just like that, it was over. The bike boxes were taken out of the van to be dealt with the next day, the van was returned to Waterloo, and the team began making their individual ways home burdened by luggage, still in our cycle gear and attempting to navigate rush hour public transport. A life changing experience all wrapped up within a week, but one which made memories and a sense of pride and achievement that will last must longer.