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Carol Johnson’s Indian Charity Bike Ride

“She’ll never do that!” Carol Johnson overheard a student say, after she told a Personal, Social and Health Education class that her ambition was to undertake a charity bike ride abroad. But now the Huntcliff Maths teacher has signed up for the Second Women’s Cancer Challenge - Cycle India 2012 and is going to prove him wrong.... On her return from her summer

holiday this year, Carol saw an advert in a newspaper for the 350 km cycle ride, raising funds to fight breast, cervical and ovarian cancers and realised that the dates coincided with next autumn term’s half-term holiday. She sent off her £250 registration fee and received her information pack without delay. The cycle ride takes place in

Rajasthan, the Land of the Kings, but the trip begins with a flight from London to Delhi. After orientation in Agra, including a visit to the Taj Mahal, the team will set off from Khuana, where their journey will be blessed by a holy man. Then they ride across country to Jaipur. Eventually, after they return their bikes, they will have a free day to enjoy the sights and sounds of this ‘Pink City’. The team, which numbers fifty-one women so far, will have cycled over five days on dirt tracks and secondary roads in an un-touristy rural area.

“I’m expecting the roads to be narrow and full of

potholes with several hilly sections, part of the ride being through an arid desert-like area,” says Carol. “October is their Cool Dry Season with temperatures between 25-30 degrees C during the day falling to 5 or 10 degrees at night. Our accommodation will include both campsites and a former royal palace. Our equipment will be carried separately and bike mechanics and medical staff will help us out en route if necessary. I think the biggest danger will be stomach upsets: we’ve been told to drink only from cans and to avoid food from street vendors.” Carol likes Indian food - her favourite is chicken

tikka with chick peas and spinach, but she’s not sure about curry for breakfast..... The cyclists have been advised not to wear immodest dress, as India is a sensitive, conservative nation, so she isn’t packing tight cycling shorts or sleeveless vests. Carol is going to pay all her own travelling costs to

ensure that all sponsor money will go to Women V Cancer charities. A small proportion of the funds raised will support cancer care in India. Each cyclist is expected to collect a minimum of £2,800 in sponsorship, which Carol regards as quite a challenge, but she is making a successful start. “The whole experience is taking me out of my comfort zone,” she continues. “The challenge is not just

the distance, but it’s cycling over an unknown terrain in an arid climate. I need to build up my training. At present, I attend a weekly for ty-f ive minute spinning class at Saltburn Leisure Centre, where everyone else is much younger!” For ten to twelve years,

Carol has been a keen cyclist. Her first big ride was from Scarborough to Danby. She has subsequently completed the Coast to Coast four times and has taken part in the two day bike orienteering Polaris Challenge, carrying her own tent and equipment on her bike. She has a mountain bike, a Specialized Myka Comp, but she now prefers to ride on roads.

“I find being out on this bike easy exercise,” she

explains. “I can allow my mind to wander, which is very relaxing. It’s also very easy to keep up my fitness by cycling.” Getting the fundraising underway is using Carol’s

energy too. Last half-term, she raised £176 through selling cakes to Huntcliff staff at breaks and home-made cards and crafts. A stall at the Campus Christmas Fair offered these and other items in aid of the cause and a donation from the school’s ‘Think Pink Day’ boosted the total. Her son, Ben and daughter, Kate, both in their twenties, accompanied her on a sponsored cycle ride from Newcastle to Danby in early November, a distance of over seventy miles. Carol is also thinking of organising a ceilidh in the early spring. “Everyone has been very supportive,” Carol says.

“The students at school are enthusiastic and willing to help. My husband first of all thought I was mad, but now he says he’s very proud of me and wishes he had my determination. Every family is touched somehow by cancer: I lost my sister-in-law to the illness and we all want to prevent others from suffering and provide much needed support.” She is contacting local organizations and businesses

as well to see if they are willing to contribute. She expects to address school assemblies on her return and is keen to give presentations to community groups who are interested. “I’m finding this an incredible learning experience,”

she admits. “It’s changed my understanding of fundraising as I now realise what’s involved. I have a lot more sympathy towards people trying to raise funds!” If you are willing to make a donation, you can send

a cheque payable to Women V Cancer to 27 Ainthorpe Lane, Danby, North Yorkshire YO21 2JT or go online to: Carol will be very grateful.

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