When a group of seven mates decided to take on a challenge this summer, someone came up with the idea of cycling the full length of the canal from Liverpool to Leeds – all 127 miles of it.

Several punctures, numerous falls, and dozens of aching limbs later, each rider made it home safe and sound. Dan Holmes, who organised the event in aid of the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust, tells us how they got on and why his son Callum, who had retinoblastoma as a baby, was their inspiration…

Setting off

“We arrived in Liverpool around 9am and met our bikes that had been driven over from Leeds by van. After getting kitted up we set off from Liverpool around 9.45am and made good progress to start with.

Of the seven lads taking part, only two are cyclists so after good initial progress we soon started to find it hard going. Two lads were struggling to keep pace but they were happy for the rest to go ahead and they would carry on at their own speed.

After getting out of Liverpool, the paved canal towpath soon turned to grass and, with the rain, this made things very hard, slow and slippy. However we all plodded on and the first group of five made it to our hotel in Burnley around 6.30pm that evening after nine hours and 75 miles on the bikes.

One lad then followed around 45 mins later but the last man didn’t arrive until around two hours after us and walked with his bike the last 10 miles after getting a puncture and not being able to fix it!

After some ice baths and hot showers, we had plenty of well deserved food and a few beers before bed that night, everyone suffering with sore legs, bottoms and knees – with some not sure whether they would be able to set off again the next day.

A daunting task

Sunday morning and more rain came but after a big breakfast and some bike repairs we all set off for the last 50 miles to Leeds. Once we got going, the first 10 miles or so flew by on reasonable surfaces.

However we then hit 15 miles of grass, mud, stones, tree roots etc, which made the rest of the morning very tough and everyone pressed ahead at their own speeds. We all eventually reached our lunch point in Skipton and after a brief stop, set off again on the last leg to Leeds. After another 10 miles or so of tough ground we approached Bingley knowing the end was in sight and the paths were finally good!

The last 10 miles into Leeds flew by and, after a stop at a pub for a quick drink so everyone could regroup, we all rolled in to our finishing point in Leeds to be met by a crowd of family and friends and another well deserved beer.

Despite the weather and towpath conditions, lack of training, borrowed bikes, numerous falls and sore bodies, we all did well to complete our challenge and have raised well over £1,000 for CHECT, with money still coming in.

All credit to each of the lads for overcoming their own personal battles during the trip and seeing it through to the end. Plans are already being made for next years’ challenge which I’ve promised won’t be as physically demanding!

Helping charity

Not only is this a personal challenge for us all but we are also raising money for the Childhood Eye Cancer Trust. In September 2012, my son Callum was diagnosed with retinoblastoma at 10 months old and had to have his right eye removed. Fortunately he has gone on to make a good recovery and has not been affected by his artificial eye in any way.

CHECT did a superb job in supporting us as a family throughout that traumatic time and continue to support families affected by eye cancer as well as providing funding for research into the disease, and I try to raise money to support the excellent work they do.”

Thank you so much Dan and the boys for your support! You can still sponsor the team via their JustGiving page: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/StanOBCyle

If you’d like to take part in a challenge for CHECT, we can help you find the right event for you – visit our fundraising pages to find out more.