A band of cyclists have completed one of the hardest cycle routes Britain has to offer, after trekking the High 5 in Scotland.
This accomplishment would be a remarkable feat for anyone to complete - let alone someone diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND)
Davy Zyw was diagnosed with MND back in 2018 and recently completed the phenomenal 260+ mile route with his band of brothers, the RideforMND organisation, in order to raise awareness of the disease and money for the My Name’s Doddie Foundation.
Two years after Davy’s diagnosis, the RideforMND organisation was formed what they have initially branded a “club” - the correct wording for their team is yet to be agreed upon - who successfully completed the NC500 and raised around £150,000 for the My Name’s Doddie Foundation.
Their recent ride has raised a further £70,000 for the cause, yet this is still so far behind what is needed to help provide better research, and more importantly, better treatments for what is still an incurable disease.
MND is a terminal illness which causes the cells in the brain and nervous system to stop working. Symptoms of the disease include muscle weakness, slurred speech, and difficulty swallowing - these ailments become increasingly severe over time.
The morning ahead of my chat with Davy and his best mate and fellow RideforMND member Malcolm, I had failed to make it to the office in favour of working-from-home, due to a self-diagnosis of ‘feeling under the weather’.
As I began to delve deeper into what the incredible group had gone through both before and during their 265.41 mile route, my own morning thoughts were really put into perspective.
The RideforMND team had just finished a near impossible task - a 265.41 route with a total ascent of 19,143 feet and downward descent of 17,877 feet - while I had failed to walk the 30 minutes from my flat to the office.
It became more apparent throughout my chat, that if you’re friends with Davy, you may not be given the choice for backing out of a challenge, as he pointed out: “I’m the one with MND, so my fit friends, who aren’t suffering from incurable neurological conditions have no excuses!”
As I marvelled at what a trip they have just managed to achieve in 30 hours (30 hours!) this cycle ride is not just about the miles they can put on the road - it’s about whether these miles can transform into progress.
Or as Davy put it: “Even though there are only a few of us on those crazy cycle trips, it’s about the thousands of people who have donated and the thousands who are liking and sharing the posts.”
And of course, these miles are barely representative of what RideforMND put themselves through to get to this position.
The training regime consisted of waking up at 3am to cycle at 4; a 240 World in a Day challenge which Malcolm remarks he ‘only’ completed 200 of those 240, (meanwhile Davy “obviously smashed it and made [Malcolm] feel bad”) and a fantastic 48 hour trip from Edinburgh to Cardiff to deliver the Six Nations match ball for the Wales v Scotland fixture.
However, as Malcolm noted, “nothing could have prepared you for the High 5”
As they travelled the phenomenal 260+ miles, 15,000 calories were burnt by each cyclist, with Malcolm recommending new baby potatoes, salt and vinegar crisps, beef biltong and flat coke as the answer to his ‘bonking’ (a cyclist’s phrase I have been assured relates to hitting the metaphorical wall in terms of mental and physical energy…) prayers.
To help with his diminishing muscle strength, Davy has alterations on his bike to give him a more upright position, alleviating the strain on his arms and hands as well as having electric gears and double padding on the handlebars.
Despite these innovations, the group endured their darkest hours 200 miles into the trip. After not suffering from any leg cramp throughout the entire trip, the stress or ‘press-up’ position required on the bike began to take its toll, and Davy couldn’t hold himself up anymore - his friends found him hanging over the handlebars.
However, there are still questions that need to be answered and treatments that need to be found, and these will not be resolved on “only 200 miles”.
There’s no turning back now.
As far as he is concerned, Davy is “one of the lucky ones”. He is not one of the ⅓ to have died within two years of his diagnosis and four years on is still able to get on his bike.
The team fought hard to pull through, dragging themselves out of those bleakest moments as they battled to continue raising the questions: “Why aren’t we getting new treatments?”; “Why am I not getting the drugs I need”; “Why am I not getting the support I need?”.
And with these questions ringing in their ears, it was all the motivation they needed to continue with those final 64 miles.
What awaited them at the end of their 264 miles of munro climbs is, what Malcolm and Davy describe to be not a “medically advised” form of recovery, as friends and family greet them with Champagne and beer.
And while they celebrated their unbelievable feat, the fight is far from over, as Davy points out: “There is no cure. I urge everyone to find something they love, make it hard and start having those conversations” and hopefully one day, being diagnosed with MND does not become such an inexplicable mindfield with only one firm answer.
For the RideforMND lads, it’s now very much recovery time.
The next trip is unlikely to be too far away, as the battle between time and illness rages on, but until that time, Malcolm says he will live with his “biggest fear” - getting the text from his best mate saying they’ve found the next unimaginable challenge.
To find out more about RideforMND go to rideformnd.uk and or myname5doddie.co.uk to donate.