• Gavin Bates
  • 4 June 2013

Breaking barriers

On Sunday I, along with another 1,334 cyclists, took part in the Hero Ride in London to raise money for Help For Heroes.

Whilst I cycle to work, it is not an activity that I am overly fond of – it is a necessity rather than a lifestyle choice. Similarly, Help For Heroes, is not a charity that I, personally, have a strong connection with. So, with that in mind, why did I get up at 2.30am on Sunday morning to cycle over 80 miles and give up a great portion of my weekend?

There was a large part of me that didn’t want to get up on Sunday but, aside from being an event I arranged and having a responsibility to lead the team, something I have learned in recent years is that doing things you really don’t want to do and pushing through barriers of whatever kind can lead to unexpected and momentous results.

So in the dark of the night I, along with five fellow cyclists (Gary Jobson, Studio Manager, Simon Toseland, Head of Health and Safety, Minnie Eve, PR and Marketing Executive, and Peter Watts, Head of Environment, all of Workplace Law, along with Dan Brown), set off from our head office in Cambridge, with our support driver (Alex Davies, Head of Development) behind us and the muffled sounds of late night revellers stumbling home to their beds after a night out greeting us on the streets.

On arrival at our start point it was clear that none of us had got much sleep, despite all having gone to bed early, and yet all of our moods were positive and an instant sense of camaraderie swept over me. Here was a group of people that, for whatever reason, were doing something together that they wouldn’t normally do.

Throughout the day, every single person played their part and did whatever was needed to keep the team moving. Alex kept our bodies fuelled with water and bananas, and the sight of her crawling along beside us in her car or waiting for us at the next stop certainly provided a great amount of security and comfort. We motivated one another, took it in turns to lead, navigated through local knowledge, technology and educated guess work and they all kept me going when I was telling myself that I couldn’t go on anymore.

Even people that we had never met before supported us, like those at Harlow Mill that let us use their facilities and made us drinks before opening time, and the lady that handed Simon £4 as a donation when he was on his way home.

Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the first half of the ride up to Harlow, after this point my serious lack of training began to show and I really didn’t think I’d be able to make it to the end. Arriving onto the busy streets of London was actually a relief as the numerous traffic lights provided me with an opportunity to stop, catch my breath and massage very tired muscles in my legs.

It was in Harlow that we were joined by Paul Fox and Paul Dearsley from Price Bailey. They fitted into the ethos of the team effortlessly and, despite clearly being very strong cyclists, they happily pedalled along at a steadier pace than they are most likely used to.

This truly was a team effort and I know for certain that alone I would not have got much further than half way. But I am so glad I made it, that I got up when I didn’t want to and that I was pushed through physical and mental barriers because the whole experience was worth it.

I went through every emotion and thought on that ride and they all added to the sense of achievement I felt when we arrived in Blackheath, at a time when I’d normally still be waking myself up, and saw all those other cyclists. Sitting in the sun, eating, drinking, listening to Stevie Wonder, talking and relaxing, I couldn’t help but smile and be grateful for the people around me. Whilst the feelings are not quite as intense as they were then, I am still left with the same sense of awe at how amazing human beings are – that they really can achieve anything they want to and, more importantly, how well things work when people pull together and take care of one another. The key thing to take from this being, how can we make sure this happens in all areas of life?

After a nice break, and wearing our medals and Help For Heroes t-shirts proudly, we lined up with the other cyclists ready for the start of the Hero Ride.

We waited for some time before we could begin as police and organisers prepared the city roads for a mass of lycra clad cyclists. Despite my tiredness, somehow I had got a second wind and those ten miles pedalling slowly through London made the pain of the previous 68 miles even more worth it. Riding in unison with hundreds of other people, all with their own stories to tell, all who had completed their own personal challenges, and all looking out for one another, whilst passing through amazing London landmarks, such as Tower Bridge, whilst being applauded by people on the streets and beeped at by passing drivers, filled me up with emotion and pride.

What really brought home what this day was about was when we arrived at the end and congregated to hear some of the stories of those people that have been supported by Help For Heroes. This made it clear to me why we had all got up this morning and why we had done this event, all pushing through our own personal barriers to do our little bit, not only for others but for our own self-development and fulfilment.

This wasn’t a day about politics, or the rights or wrongs of war, this wasn’t about soldiers, this was about human beings and what they can achieve when they push through barriers and what we as a society and as a race can achieve when we all support and care for one another.

So, after initially feeling so negatively and selfishly about giving up my time for this event, what I was left with afterward, and still am, is a real sense of what we can all be when we are at our best.

If you would like to support the team’s achievement and donate to Help For Heroes then please visit:

To see some team photos click here.