A student took on a mammoth bike ride challenge to commemorate the fifth anniversary of the death of her beloved dad, cycling the equivalent of five marathons in just four days.
Lena Hughes pedalled the entire 127-mile length of the Leeds and Liverpool Canal in honour of her dad Simon Hughes, from Chorley, and to raise money for St Catherine’s Hospice, where he was cared for in his final days.
She was joined by her boyfriend Jamie Sheard and their friend Sam Gibson, who both ran and walked the distance.
The trio have split the incredible £4,524 between St Catherine’s Hospice, St Gemma’s Hospice in Leeds where Jamie’s mum was cared for, and Alzheimer’s Society UK as Sam’s grandma has dementia.
Lena, who has now finished studying at Leeds Beckett University and is starting a job in recruitment in Leeds, said: “It went really well. It was more difficult than we ever could have imagined but the sense of achievement at the end and the money we’ve raised made it so worthwhile.
“Sam injured his knee at the end of the second day so he had to walk more than 60 miles with an injury.
“The weather was also a bit of a challenge – the first day was torrential downpours all day and then it was blistering heat thereafter.
“I hadn’t ridden a bike in 10 years before taking on the challenge so to train, I was going to the gym five to six times a week to ensure my fitness was at its best.
“It helped my body learn how to recover and be able to exercise again within a short period of time.
“It was quite a challenge doing it alongside completing university.”
“The three of us had a great sense of being a team, and on the rainy day to lift our spirits we spent the last hour singing our hearts out while running and cycling.
Lena, who spent many weekends with her dad in Chorley, says she has a lot of fond memories from her time there, and enjoyed reminiscing as she cycled through the town along the canal.
She said: “Jamie lost his mum 10 years ago to cancer and came up with the idea of the challenge.
“He encouraged me to come alongside him to commemorate my dad’s five-year anniversary and I feel so grateful as it is the first time I’ve felt ready to acknowledge everything that’s happened, the time that has now passed, and my desire to give back to St Catherine’s.”
Dad-of-four Simon was initially diagnosed with bile duct cancer in 2011 and had an operation to remove the cancer cells, as well as chemotherapy.
He was given the all clear in spring 2012 but by the autumn the cancer had returned and he was told that he had just 12 months to live.
In April 2013, he was referred to the inpatient unit at St Catherine’s Hospice for pain management, and died two weeks later, aged 47.
“The hospice staff were amazing,” Lena said.
“They made unbearable circumstances that little bit more bearable by providing loving care and a sense of peace to both my dad and all of the family.”
Hayley Jackson, fund-raiser at St Catherine’s Hospice, said: “What an incredible achievement – it sounds like Lena, Jamie and Sam had a tough few days but they’ve done an amazing job and have helped raise a fantastic £1,333 for St Catherine’s.
“We’d like to say a very big thank you to them, because without the amazing support of people like Lena, we wouldn’t be able to raise the £3.5m we need to generate from fund-raising and charitable efforts each and every year, to enable us to care for people with life-shortening illnesses.”