The Cycle Malawi team sets off today. Morag Whitham from Stewarton, Ayrshire, and Heather Wells from Burntisland, Fife, share their thoughts and fears before they depart.
Morag is taking part in her first ever Cycle Malawi challenge. She writes:
I am not the sporty one in our family and usually one of the last to be picked at school games! I don't like getting scrapes and bruises or being out of breath. So here I am signed up to cycle 300 miles in Malawi! There was no thought last year in my head of doing this - in fact I had been heard saying I couldn't do this and marvelled at others who had.
Then these events occurred! Out of the blue I was offered a bike, asked at the EMMS roadshow if I had thought of doing the ride and then read this:
"May God inspire you to achieve a goal that He puts in your heart.
May He stir up faith as you step up and step out."
How could I not sign up?!
Training started in the garage on a turbo trainer to stay out of the cold and wet January and included my Zumba and Pilates classes. Very enthusiastic to start with - my training plan all mapped out - I like to read up and plan - not always do!
This enthusiasm waned as bits of my body became painful, so Graham and I took to the open roads around Stewarton. This was much harder than I had imagined- my first bike with gears, roads with traffic lights and roundabouts! Most of my bike riding was as a child in Malawi - much more carefree!
Training has built up and I am amazed that I have improved. Still need to be encouraged to get out and do it. It doesn't come naturally and I still feel a fraud if I say I'm a cyclist! There have been tears and doubts and yet at the right time encouragement.
Not long to go! Looking forward to being in Malawi- still not sure about the cycling bit! Looking forward to being supported and surrounded by a great team of fellow cyclists and crew. Knowing that it will be the experience of a lifetime and making new friends along the way.
Heather Wells is taking part in her second Malawi bike Ride for EMMS International. She writes:
Only a few days to go, why oh why did I not train earlier/harder/longer! Oh well, enthusiasm, determination and the camaraderie of the group is just gonna have to make up for it!
The best thing about training for an event like this is that it forces you to go out in all kinds of weather, covering distances you wouldn't normally dream of.
So how am I feeling about the trip? I'm feeling excited but also relaxed and quite calm. When I went to Malawi in 2009, I was very worried about the cycle challenge, the beasties, the culture, safety and probably a million other things. But having been before, I know that the group supports each other through challenging times with advice, encouragement and generally having a good laugh. Plus the people of Malawi are very welcoming and happy and give you lots of encouragement along the way.
The highlight of my trip will be visiting the healthcare project and being encouraged by how inventive and effective they can be, with often very limited resources. When we visited Embangweni hospital in 2009, I was really impressed by the seamless provision given when patients were admitted, between primary care and hospital based services to the patient and relatives. Certainly something I think we could learn a lot from in our NHS.
Well I have started the first leg of the adventure, on the train to London, looking forward to some family time before this next adventure.