Each month we will bring you information from a different fundraising event and give you details about how you can get involved!
This month, Maggie’s Monster Bike and Hike.
Maggie’s Monster Bike & Hike is now in its 6th year and is a 24-hour fundraising team challenge. The event goes from Fort William through to Inverness covering 73 miles along the Great Glen Way.
Teams of between two and six people start out early in the morning at Fort William, Scotland. The first stage is by bike and covers the first 30 miles of the Great Glen Way to Fort Augustus. Now, when I think bike I think gentle pedal around the leafy lanes of the Cheshire plain, maybe stopping for a pie and a pint along the way. This is not that kind of cycling! I have to confess that I haven’t taken part in this event, neither have I walked this section of the Great Glen Way, so how do I know that the cycling is tough? Well, for the past three years I have been in Fort Augustus supporting the massage therapists who soothe all those tired legs. The guys that enter these events for the competition as much as the fundraising blaze through the tented village set up for participants and their support teams, barely stopping for a gulp of energy drink and a change of shoes.
Most participants unsaddling at Fort Augustus walk like a cowboy from some b movie western and vow never to straddle a bike again! The scenery is fabulous which offers some compensation as you push your bike up another hill and the section entering Fort Augustus is along the Caledonian Canal so is a broad, well-made path and, crucially, it is flat! In fact a lot of the massages required by the later arrivals, those less experienced on a bike are not to legs but to shoulders, as novice riders have been gripping the handlebars and hanging on for dear life on some of the forest descents. It doesn’t take long for people to recover though, a quick massage and a bowl of hot soup later all are ready to tackle the next stage, an eight-mile hike to the Bronze finish at Invermoriston.
The route of the Great Glen Way beyond Fort Augustus is beautiful with views right across Loch Ness. Unfortunately in order to see the view you have to gain height and the path climbs steeply to begin with. Of course the compensation is the downhill stroll into Invermoriston. Participants can call it a day when they reach here collecting a bronze medal for their efforts. Hardier souls can continue on to Drumnadrochit, a further 22 miles along the route. This next section of the way from Invermoriston to the old fort at Grotaig is certainly the most demanding of all sections. There are two significant ascents, the first out of Invermoriston, then the longer and greater ascent from Alltsigh. The rewards on a clear day are spectacular, looking down on the Loch some 900 feet below. By the time participants reach Drumnadrochit there are many more cowboy impersonators about, but there are also plenty of massage therapists, physios and first aiders around to provide help and support.
For those still gluttens for punishment there is a further 17 miles walk ahead to the finish in Inverness. From Drumnadrochit the route leads onto the shore of the loch but it does not remain at this level for long before it climbs, yet again, into woodland. This section is perhaps the most varied of all, with further ascent and descent and a mixture of farmland, moorland and forestry.
The fastest finishers this year arrived at Inverness, just a fraction over nine and a half hours! Yes, really!! And the final arrival took just over 24 hour hours, still an incredible achievement having crossed some 73 miles of undulating tracks, paths and roads!
So why do people put themselves through this? Well some participants enjoy the buzz of these endurance events and compete at many of them throughout the year. For the vast majority, however, it is to raise funds for Maggie’s.
Maggie’s provides support to anyone affected by any type of cancer, be they a patient, family member or friend. They provide a free programme of information, psychological support and anxiety reduction to complement medical treatment received at adjacent NHS hospitals. Every penny raised at the Monster Bike and Hike event goes straight towards supporting those families, friends and carers who have been touched by cancer.
There are five centres across Scotland and a further one in London providing support for patients and their families struggling to cope with the problems of living with cancer.
So who was Maggie?
Maggie Keswick Jencks, wife, mother, daughter, scholar and writer, landscape designer and painter, started the whole project back in 1993. She persuaded her medical team at the Western General Hospital in Edinburgh, where she was being treated for metastasized breast cancer, that they needed partners who could help their patients with the very real, if not medical, problems of living with cancer. She drew up the blueprint and plans for the project that became the Maggies Centres in a stable block a small distance from where she was being treated.
The centres have also received fame for the quality of the buildings. Some of the worlds most famous architects have designed for Maggie’s. Every Maggie’s centre is built beside an NHS cancer hospital and built to stand out from the hospital. They are designed to be welcoming and accessible for patients and their families.
Further details about Maggies, and details of how you can sign up for the 2010 Monster Bike and Hike, and many other fundraising events around the country, can be found on their website. So if you or your friends or your family have been affected by cancer you can do a lot worse than consider supporting this wonderful organisation.
Maggie’s, The Stables,
Western General Hospital, Crewe Road,
Edinburgh EH4 2XU
Website – www.maggiescentres.org
Maggie’s Events Enquiries 0845 602 6427 or e-mail
Application form for the Monster Bike and Hike 2010 is here