Miles 4 Wishes
by Andy Brown, posted 24 April 2018
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Aylesbury Wish Hero, Guy Stapleford, is set to push himself further and faster in 2018, cycling and walking 2,000 miles, alone and unsupported for charity! All of it is mind boggling and we wanted to find out more...
Following on from the success of the 13 challenges he completed in 2017, Guy Stapleford, also known as Miles-For-Wishes, is taking on four more challenges this year. He will cover a total of 2,000 miles by bike and foot, on his own and with no support, in aid of charity Make-A-Wish UK and children like Maddy from Beaconsfield. The father of two, from Great Kimble, near Aylesbury, kicks off his effort on 26 April when he will undertake the South Coast Spring - a 400 mile solo cycle along the South Coast of England, from Dover to St Austell within 40 hours!
[JRTB] Guy – can you explain why you are doing these challenges?
[GUY] The Miles for Wishes journey was borne out of three things - to challenge myself to do some of things I'd always talked about doing but never had, to change myself and some of the things I don't like about the world we live in and hopefully to inspire others to do the same. Supporting Make-A-Wish is at the very heart of all of this - giving seriously ill children the opportunity to have something magical in their lives.
It was about taking a bad personal time and turning it into a positive, to just do something amazing for someone else. I'm a father too so there was something about setting an example to my two young girls - I want them to grow to just be good, caring and honest human beings. More than that though, I want them to be empowered women who know they are capable of anything, that they are only ever limited by their own imagination and determination to succeed.
[JRTB] Talk us through what happened in 2017?
[GUY] I started running in late 2016 and in February 2017 I ran my first half marathon and went on to run two more, walk the National Three Peaks solo, cycle from London to Brighton and back and then lastly cycle from John O'Groats to Land's End solo and unsupported in nine days.
I ended up raising £2,500 for Make-A-Wish, and while this is great I was disappointed I hadn't hit my £5,000 target. I think in one of my blogs I said that "the world hasn't changed so I can't stop yet". So by the end of the year I am determined to raise that remaining £2,500, but that's challenging as I need to reach and touch the hearts of a much wider audience now.
[JRTB] We respect the running…obviously…and the walking…but the cycling is our big focus: 400-miles in 40 hours is a big ask. Your recent blog/video was excellent I think it will be a message (about feeling unsure about going a big distance etc.) that all bike riders will understand! When did you realise you had the kind of engine and attitude to take on these type of rides?
[GUY] I'm still not sure I have the engine but I want find out. I have a tattoo on my arm with the lyrics to a song "Hell or Glory, I don't want anything in between", for me this quite representative of the person I am - I'd rather try and go down in flames than never try at all. I'm pretty sure that when it comes down to that moment when you want to stop, cry a little and just throw your bike in the hedge, that I will just put my head down and keep turning those pedals. In my working life, I've never been the best I've just worked harder than my peers, I've taken chances and opportunities when they come up, so I think this is just a reflection of that.
There are so many riders who are stronger, faster and doing things that are far more incredible than what I'm doing. But these are all challenges to me - and yes 400 miles in two days feels huge, especially when you have the hills of Devon and Cornwall to conquer on tired legs.
[JRTB] We try to put the Velominati to one side, but is it about rule 5, or is what we like to think of as a Just Ride the Bike attitude (kind of the naïve people bit and not the planners that you mention in your blog video) or is it something else – like doing good etc.?
[GUY] It's definitely both for me - I have found a passion for just being out on the bike. Depending on your mood you can either push it hard or just have those wonderful mindful rides where you simply just enjoy the act of riding and soaking up where you are. I guess I'm lucky living in rural Buckinghamshire - I set out of my door and I'm straight on to the Chiltern's so it’s easy to just get lost in your own head and get some miles done. But as with all of it, I wanted it all to have a point - I'm not smart enough or rich enough to find a cure for a lot of the world's ills but these challenges felt like something I could do in order to change the lives of children with critical illnesses.
I'm definitely a little naive, part of that is compartmentalising what I'm doing. If I stopped and actually thought too hard about it I might end up not doing it.
[JRTB] Have you looked at other big adventure rides or races – say like the Transcontinental Race or any of the big Audax type events set up by people like Nigel Hall?
[GUY] I've got an eye on a few things and 'the list' still has a few things on it - like an IronMan, but there is definitely an attraction for the TransContinental and BikeMan Ultra type of races. I'm just not sure on the race aspect of it all if I'm honest. I don't really do sportives or formal events because I like the freedom of designing my own routes, my stops and my pace. However, doing it your own way takes a lot of commitment to planning and personal cost.
One thing I know I want to do is to try and find a record to set or beat, I'm quite (ok, very) competitive so while I'm not in to racing I think some kind of endurance record could be on the cards.
[JRTB] What kind of bike riders do you think of as role models – big name racers or the epic long distance guys from the 1930s, 40s and 50s that few people know about – or is just the idea of helping Make a Wish and kids like Maddy?
[GUY] At the risk of sounding foolish, I don't really know a whole lot about the world of cycling - I've really only started watching the big tours this year as my passion has developed. That said, the obvious media coverage of people like Mark Beaumont and Sean Conway as well as Robbie Ferri and Tim Wiggins on the bike has definitely given me some impetus to try bigger challenges. It's funny, but in a way I am more inspired by those 'ordinary' people who get up and try something at, for them, is 'extraordinary'. Taking that first step is often the hardest and I love that my social media feeds are just full of people giving it their best. I've met and talked to so many people from twitter or instagram on the back of trading stories about our own challenges - take you and I for example.
I'm reading AdventureMan (Jamie McDonald) who ran across 5,000 miles solo across Canada - the scale of that achievement, both in running that distance and the difference he made by raising over a quarter of a million pounds for children's charities is something I really admire. I want to do the same thing, but on a bike - do something, just amazing for other people.
Recently Radio 1's Greg James took on his 'Pedal to the Peaks', walking up and cycling between the UK's three highest peaks in 5 days. I'm doing this same challenge but I'll be aiming to complete it in 3 days. Again, Greg raised over £1m in aid of Mental Health and has gone a long way in 'normalising' the conversation about it being ok, not to be ok. If I can do a fraction of the good Jamie and Greg have done, but for Make-A-Wish and the children they help then I will be a happy boy.
When I am out on the challenges, when the legs hurt and the mind waivers - I just focus on why I am putting myself through this. I know my challenge will end, I will get time to rest and recover and feel 'normal' again - but there are thousands of children who won't get that chance and it's a thought that really hurts, I can't describe why. So every painful mile means I will hopefully raise more cash to help give them something magical, a break from hospitals, appointments and for them and their families a lifetime of memories.
[JRTB] How did you first get into this?
[GUY] My wife and I separated in 2016 and I wanted to give myself something to focus on and to make sure there was a positive to all the hurt. So I made a list of all the things I wanted to do but had never got around to: I signed up for a half marathon and started to look on eBay for a cheap bike to do London to Brighton and it all went from there. Before March last year I'd never ridden a road bike, let alone used cleats, so it's been a massive learning curve. I have learnt and done a lot in a short space of time, but that's only spurred me on to see what else I've got in me. So this years challenges have just felt like a progression from last years nine day JOGLE.
[JRTB] You mentioned your Dad asking “how long son?” So, how long?
[GUY] Genuinely, I don't know. I view this very much as the start of a journey. I have never wanted to be famous or be rich I just want to be happy and while these challenges are hard and take a lot of sacrifices they make me happy. Happy because I'm supporting and raising awareness of an amazing cause in Make-A-Wish UK but also be as you said, it's all about the ride. Maybe I will just start to do less challenges but increase the scale of them...in terms of fundraising, it feels like its a case of doing something different, something that makes people stop and say "wow, you’re doing what?". So, no we are definitely not at the end yet.
[JRTB] We are great advocates for cycling as something that does people good, it can fix the world. It gives me some clarity and stimulates my brain – what does it do for you?
[GUY] Part of my own blogging (which is another thing I'm still learning) has been about a vehicle to help me sort through some of my own feelings. I've made no secret of my own struggles with depression and becoming active has made such a difference to my mental health. It's become a new drug for me, a way to have time in my own head and work through the stresses and problems of the day, or to just switch off. I do find it hard to turn my brain off so the rides and runs often become a time when I plot and plan - I get home tired but mentally refreshed. Exercise is free, you don't need a GP to prescribe it and I can make such a difference, not just physically.
[JRTB] How do you juggle work, life, family and training – there must be a whole list of compromises along the way?
[GUY] It's not easy, I definitely feel pulled in lots of directions. The girls come first, every time, that was a promise I made when their mother and I separated. The challenges have all had to fit around my time with them and inevitably that means taking them on during weekdays and taking time off work. I work for a large Housing Association and they have been brilliant, both in terms of me taking time off but also in my colleagues getting behind me and what I'm doing it. It's simply a case of getting up early and fitting what I can in when I can and mainly sacrificing time in bed and lunch breaks.
Follow Guy’s adventures at https://milesforwishes.com/
All Photos, credits to Miles 4 Wishes
All Photos, credits to Miles 4 Wishes