The title of this book caught my eye because there are many programs like “couch to 5K” out there. That was probably the intent. Anyway, the author, Chris Daniel, wanted to do something to honor his beloved wife Rita, who was fighting cancer, and to raise money for charities that support people with cancer. Sadly, Rita passed away during the adventures described in the book.
Chris was formerly a pretty fit bike rider but had let himself go in middle age. He became inspired by Mark Beaumont’s book about his record setting ride around the world (The Man Who Cycled the World, another fascinating book; I talked about Mark here), and gets the idea to duplicate Mark’s ride virtually. The technology exists to do that, here’s how: There are bike trainers that can use gps data from actual rides, and automatically adjust the resistance based on the terrain (e.g. harder for uphill). So Chris gets ahold of one of these (actually more than one, donated by a sponsor supporting the adventure). Next, Chris downloads the gps records that Mark posted for his ride (it helps that Mark is highly supportive of this whole idea). Now the idea of riding 18000 miles on a trainer (I won’t give any spoilers away by saying how long it took) sounds daunting. It’s hard work, your butt’s not going to be happy with all those hours in the saddle, and it’s going to be challenging to fight off boredom. But at least you get to leisurely get up, have breakfast, then go to the trainer and get started. But Chris took that up a notch too, by arranging to do the rides at various venues he has to drive to and set up, because that offers a better opportunity for fundraising. He also, on his website, invited people to join him to ride some segments of the ride. That’s what the extra trainers are for.
As a dry run, Chris first participated in a multi-day ride around his home country of Wales, a pretty hilly area, so this is a good challenge in itself. Then he and his supporters went through the long process of arranging sponsors and venues.
Then the ride itself began, and we see the many challenges Chris is going through along the way. There are also a lot of interesting stories of people who joined him, many who also have loved ones affected by cancer and want to help out with fundraising. Many are also not cyclists, but still gutted it out for several hours on a hard saddle.
Chris is a regular guy, and it’s astonishing how much regular folks can accomplish if they throw their hearts into it. He’s not just a regular guy anymore, though, because along the way he was awarded the Order of the British Empire. But I don’t think he cares about that as much as all the money for charity and the awareness this amazing team effort raised.