Wheels of Steel

Looking for “Fitspiration”? Then look no further than WSO teachers Lara Bates and Tom Keggin. The sporty pair have challenged themselves to cycle 20km every day for a year, and they’ve already clocked up over 2,360km since 3 October 2020. Read on as Lara shares why their cycle challenge means so much.

How did the challenge come about?
“Tom and I both love keeping active. I’m a PE teacher, I also do triathlons and play netball, and Tom used to play amateur football, so sport is a constant part of our lives. During lockdown when we were teaching from home we decided to cycle together as a safe way to keep active and keep our morale up. One day, Tom saw a Facebook post about a man that was running 10k every day during the pandemic, so he said we should do it too. But I’m not a good runner and had a bad leg injury not long ago, so we agreed to do 20km a day on the bike instead. We wanted it to be a challenging distance but also sustainable for us when we returned to school.”

What are the rules? Are there any exceptions?
“We cycle 20km a day – every day, for one year. There are no exceptions – no allowance for public holidays, birthdays or days off. As long as we physically can, we ride. We can cycle on a stationary bike or on the road, and manage our own speed. It’s a daily discipline which means we can’t skip a day and then double the kilometres on the next. Tom was ill one day and used a turbo trainer at home so he could still do his 20km.”

Why are you doing this?
“We’re doing it partly to keep active but more importantly we’re using the challenge to raise awareness about causes that are close to our hearts. Tom is raising awareness of the mental health charity Mind and their Head’s Up Campaign which is encouraging men to talk about mental health as openly as they talk about football. The campaign also looks at the physical head injuries that footballers and rugby players face. As an ex-player himself, that really hit home for him.

I’m highlighting Headway, a brain injury support organisation. Two years ago this month my dad was out running, training for a 10k or half marathon, and he suffered a heart attack. Through the various complications, he is now recovering from a brain injury. He’s been in various hospitals and Headway will support him when he’s eventually well enough to come home. Even though we’re not officially fundraising there are a lot of supporters, especially in the UK, who have donated to those charities, because of what we’ve been doing.”

What helps to motivate you every day?
“Each other. It was Tom’s idea and he’s the driving force. There have been days when one of us hasn’t been in the mood or you’re just exhausted, but we keep motivating each other and remembering why we’re doing this. Oh, and a good series on Netflix always helps me power through a session on the stationary bike!”

What’s been the toughest thing about the challenge so far?
“For me, it was when I travelled to the UK in December to visit my family.  Two major challenges with the UK, at that time, were that it had just gone into a strict lockdown, and it’s so cold! The town where my family live has very narrow roads which can be dangerous especially if weather conditions are poor so I had to come up with a solution at home.

My mum used to do triathlons so she had a bike at home. It’s an old yellow road bike that she’d had for 17 years –  it was second-hand when she bought it so it is very old, but still in great condition. We had it checked over and then connected it to a turbo trainer so I could cycle every day in the garage. It was a much safer and warmer solution, and my mum can use the turbo trainer now that I’ve left.”

How can the wider GEMS community support you?
“You can follow us on Instagram @cyclingsilliness. We post our milestones, challenges and distances, and any fellow teachers that want to join us for a ride are welcome. Our Head of Primary, Nathan Sadler, joined us recently, and if our challenge inspires just a few people to get on a bike then this becomes bigger than just us. It’s really about community.”