I decided to embark on the Cross Cuba Bike Ride for Parkinson’s UK early in 2011.
I’ve completed various fundraising challenges for Parkinson’s UK in the past - I walked the Great Wall of China in 2009 and trekked through the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2010 - so I thought the idea of a bike-ride sounded challenging and fun. I had taken partial retirement from the NHS after 40 years of service in the summer of 2010 and my retirement present from my colleagues was a beautiful new hybrid bike. What could be a better way to fill all the spare hours I was going to have?
I imagined the Cuba Bike Ride would be an easy and fun way to raise money for Parkinson’s UK. What I hadn’t taken into account was that all my training was to be in Norfolk - a beautiful county but definitely lacking in hills. However, I followed the training guide I was given (up to a point!) but without the hills. I also spent about 10 months fundraising - I staged a Variety Show with local acts and raised more than £2,000, and a local gentleman and his family held a golf tournament day for me. Several people I spoke to on the helpline also kindly sent donations and my final total was almost £4,300.
I arrived at Heathrow on 3 November 2011 and met the 13 other participants – immediately realising that there were some serious cyclists among them! However, they were a great crowd and we all got on really well. A couple of the group were people with Parkinson’s, as was the case in Spain and China, which is such a positive message to be able to pass on to newly diagnosed people.
Over the next five days we cycled 300kms in hot, humid conditions and I realised that the term ‘undulating’ translates as ‘extremely hilly’! The hardest day was when we cycled 80kms which culminated in a 9km hill to the hotel. On the last day we cycled into Santa Clara as a group and finished our ride in front of the Che Guavara monument. It was very emotional.
The support team were fantastic, the medical cover reassuring and the whole experience was an amazing challenge – but much harder than I could have ever imagined! Cuba is a wonderful country and it was fantastic to see everything at such close hand.
I would definitely encourage anyone thinking of embarking on an overseas challenge. It’s a great way to see a different country, push yourself to the limit and meet some amazing people, but be prepared to train and also work hard to raise your minimum sponsorship. As a nurse adviser on the Parkinson’s UK helpline, I know how important it is to raise money for research.
If you have been inspired and would like to find out more about Parkinson’s UK’s overseas challenges, visit parkinsons.org.uk/events
Lynda Hind is a former Neurological Specialist Nurse.