Paediatrician Su Laurent became involved in the charity Child Bereavement UK because of her work with children and their families. Being a good sport, and keen to raise funds, she was persuaded to polish her rusty cycling skills and train for the biggest bike ride of her life.
For many years, I was a trustee of a charity called Child Bereavement UK, which was set up to train professionals in the best way to support bereaved parents and children, and also to support bereaved parents and children.
There are many different kinds of fundraising within the charity, including sponsored events, and when the idea of a sponsored cycle ride to Amsterdam came up, I immediately thought of my sister, Rosemary, who is a great cyclist. She lives in Devon and cycles everywhere and so does her husband, so I thought it would be brilliant if they could take part.
When I suggested it, she immediately said, "Yes, of course I'd love to do that. But what about you? In fact, I'll only do it if you come too!"
Now I am not a cyclist. I can ride a bicycle but it is not by any means my preferred method of transport. But I thought this would be good for me and it would help me to get fit. I've looked around at people who do cycle and I've realised that everybody who cycles, more or less, is skinny.
And so after weighing it up, I said "Fine." With great enthusiasm.
Training wheels...I hadn't quite bargained for just how tough it was going to be. On my first trial cycle ride I think I went to the end of the road and back and thought I'd done really well. And then I realised that every single tiny hill was going to be an utter nightmare.
One day, a friend spotted me cycling around Hampstead Heath and said, "What are you doing?" I explained and asked him to sponsor me. And he said, "I'll not only sponsor you but I'll come with you!" So I managed to enrol a very good friend.
As it happened, he had a spare, very good bike and I quickly discovered that if you have a proper, fancy bike with lots of gears and very thin tyres, it makes hills a lot easier.
And we're off!Six months later, we all gathered together in Romford to start the ride. I looked around at the others and realised that I wasn't necessarily the most unfit out of the 12 of us who were doing it. Everyone was doing it for Child Bereavement UK and we were a mix of inexperienced and experienced cyclists.
We'd been told we had to do at least 20 miles of cycling three times a week by the time we came to the end of our fitness programme. I had done 20 miles of cycling once in the six-month lead-up and before then I certainly hadn't ever cycled three times a week.
So it was with some trepidation that I set off. The good news was that there would be a van coming with us, and not only would it have two spare bikes but there were also at least two people who knew how to change a tyre and repair a puncture. This was a relief because I'd realised that these were things I'd never be able to do.
It was good to know they'd be there. And I also knew that if everything went downhill, we would at least be able to have a little ride in the van!
On the fundraising roadOne great thing about the whole trip was that I somehow managed to keep going up every single hill. I don't know how I did it but I never dismounted on an incline. Luckily, there aren't actually that many hills between Romford and Amsterdam, but there were more than I expected! So I did very well with my hills.
The ferry between Harwich and Hook wasn't brilliant and I don't think I slept a wink. That was partly excitement and partly because I was in a funny little internal cabin on a bunk bed.
The guys who took us on the cycle ride would go ahead of us every now and then and take photographs of us all appearing round the corner. That was fun and we had a great slide show at the end of it all.
I really bonded with all my cycle mates and I was relieved to find that there was always somebody slower than me!
Sponsors, success and very sore bottoms!There were a few very sore bottoms and in fact one of the guys who cycled with us got off his bicycle when we arrived in Amsterdam and showed me his saddle, which was literally torn apart. He said: "You see that saddle? That's what my bottom looks like!"
I didn't have any injuries at all: not even blisters. I had bought myself an especially soft saddle and I was wearing double-layered gel pants. They were not flattering but they made a big difference.
The whole event was a huge amount of fun. I absolutely loved it. I got a load of sponsors, which was fantastic, and we all wound up right in the heart of Amsterdam, in Dam Square, drinking Champagne and feeling very victorious. One person had an extremely long trip in the van and was deposited outside Dam Square at the very end to join the victory parade, but nobody minded.
Between us all we raised a huge amount of money for our charity, which made us extremely proud.
About Child Bereavement UKChild Bereavement UK is a charity that supports parents and educates professionals when a child dies or is dying. It also supports children who have been bereaved. You can find out more on 0800 02 888 40 or by visiting their website.
Find out more about Su's work as a paediatrician.
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