700 mile cycle ride for friends

Two friends from Ipswich will cycle the 700 miles to Scafell Pike and back in an epic challenge for Muscular Dystrophy UK – despite having barely been on a bike for many years.

Bored of lockdown and wanting a challenge, Alex Pilgrim came up with the idea in April and messaged his friends on WhatsApp to invite them along.

Most of them laughed and dismissed the idea – apart from pal David Hooley, who agreed to join Alex on the challenge once lockdown restrictions were lifted.

Before settling on the 10-day challenge, which will also include scaling the mountain itself by foot, Alex only cycled occasionally on his 11-mile commute to work, while David hadn’t been on a bike for several years.

The pair, who are both 22 and met at school, will set off from Ipswich on 27 July in a bid to raise £2,000 for Muscular Dystrophy UK.

David said: “When we first told people what we were doing, everyone thought it was a joke. But now people are taking it a bit more seriously and are being really supportive.

“I probably haven’t done as much training as I should have, but I’m looking forward to the challenge and am determined I will do this. I’ve never done anything like it before, but now that it’s so close I realise it’s actually happening.”

Alex and David will pass through three national parks on their journey, with the peak of England’s highest mountain, Scafell Pike, marking the halfway point.

They are carrying all of their equipment themselves and hope to cycle 100 miles on day one, followed by 60 to 80 miles every day thereafter.

The friends have chosen to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy UK because Alex’s dad, Carl, has limb girdle muscular dystrophy. The charity leads the fight against 60 rare and very rare muscle-wasting conditions, including limb girdle muscular dystrophy, by funding and support research to drive the development of effective treatments, and supporting individuals and their families from the point of diagnosis onwards.

Alex said: “I remember him walking when I was younger. But over the years I have seen the changes his condition has brought. He now has an electric wheelchair, and this has given him more freedom. Muscular Dystrophy UK is a cause close to our hearts, and we hope to raise as much money as possible.”

Speaking about the cycle, he added: “I was supposed to join the Royal Marines this year but it has been delayed because of Covid-19. I decided I wanted an adventure and I thought, ‘What have I never done before?’ I’ve never been to the Lake District, and I’ve certainly never cycled 700 miles, so I decided to do that.

“I’ve done quite a lot of training and I’m feeling confident. I’ve had to fit it in around my job and have been getting up at 3am, going for a cycle from 3.30am to 5.30am, then working from 7am to 7pm. So it’s been difficult, but hopefully it will be worth it.”

Dan McNally, Head of Regional Development at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “We’re so grateful to David and Alex for taking on this amazing challenge, which will help us to continue supporting people with muscle-wasting conditions. Cycling 700 miles over 10 days is no mean feat, and we are hugely impressed by this effort.

“Charities like ours are needed now more than ever, but funds are stretched because of Covid-19. Support from people like David and Alex is even more vital at this time.”

· Sponsor Alex and David here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/700-miles-and-a-mountain