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A set decorator from Worthing will be testing his physical limits by taking on a gruelling 24-hour cycle ride on 24 July to raise money for St Barnabas House.
Under normal circumstances, James Cook, 30, would be at work, decorating sets for BBC One’s Call the Midwife. Furloughed and bored at home, he became aware of the financial struggles faced by his local hospice and felt compelled to find a way to help.
“St Barnabas is a cause close to my heart,” explains James. “They have been there for so many of my friends and family through their darkest times, including my nan, Doreen Northfield, who fought a long battle with breast cancer and passed away at the hospice in March 2015. I just want to do something to help, to ensure that this care can continue.
“I’m a really active person and I like working, so furlough has been tough. The challenge came about after chatting with my other nan, Jean Woods. She suggested that I do something to keep myself busy and mentioned a cycle ride. Without thinking it through properly, I said, I know – I’ll do a 24-hour endurance ride around Sussex! And it all picked up pace from that moment.”
James only took up road cycling last year and whilst he is into fitness and enjoys challenging himself, he says “this is nothing like I have ever done before!”
Setting off from Beach House Grounds in Worthing on Friday 24 July, James will be on his bike for a full 24 hours, with only a few short pitstops along the way to refuel and take on fluids.
He is still planning his exact route but hopes to cover up to 400 miles – roughly the equivalent distance of St Barnabas House to Scotland – crossing the finish line back where he set off, on the evening of Saturday 25 July.
With less than five weeks to go before the challenge, he has been training hard to make sure he’s ready for what lies ahead.
“Training has been intense! I’ve been heading out on rides with my mate, Mike Bignell, and so far, the longest ride we’ve done is ten hours. On top of this, I’ve also been doing lots of runs, weightlifting and yoga to improve my stamina, strength and reduce the risk of injury.
“I’ve been speaking to cycling pros and everyone thinks I’m going to be ok for the first 16 hours, but it’s after that that things are likely to get really tough. I’m going to be going into some dark places to get through this. So, as well as training my body, I’m training my mind too. I’m listening to a lot of audio books by ultra-athletes to get tips and inspiration.”
Since launching his fundraising, James has already raised over £1,910 for St Barnabas but hopes to hit a staggering £5,000 to support local hospice care.
“Whenever I went to St Barnabas House to visit my nan, everyone was always smiling, says James. “It’s such a comforting place and the whole team make sure anyone they care for at end-of-life is surrounded by light and warmth.
“Thank you to everyone who has donated and supported me so far. Any donation will make a difference and allow local hospice care to continue. I’m just asking for the equivalent of a pint – more if it’s financially doable – but, I also recognise that these are hard times for a lot of people. So, if you can’t afford to donate then please help spread the word by sharing my JustGiving page or by following my Instagram page @cook4912 using the hashtag #endurocookie24.”
Mary Bye, Community Fundraiser at St Barnabas House, says: “We are in awe of James for taking on this enormous challenge and for everything he is doing to raise money and awareness for the hospice. When the coronavirus crisis struck, our monthly fundraising income plummeted by 70% due to events being cancelled and the closure of our shops. Although the constraints are easing, support from people like James is more important than ever to make up the shortfall and ensure we can continue providing our care services in the months ahead.”
James already has his eyes set on future challenges and admits that he’s got the ‘endurance bug’! “Exercising and having something to aim for is really important to me.” says James. “This challenge has given me a new lease of life and I’m already looking at other endurance events for when it is over!”
Visit James’ JustGiving page to follow his journey and show your support.
(Photos of James and video by mike b designs)