London to Paris on two wheels, no engine included
It started when I was 5. I distinctly remember setting off from the crest of the hill in front of my house, a long day’s practise behind me. It was a mild summer afternoon, near Paris. That morning I had taken the training wheels off my bike, and had spent hour after hour going round and round a cul-de-sac. ‘By the end of the day, I’m going to master this’, I told myself. Sure enough, the sound of shoe rubber scraping against asphalt eventually faded, and suddenly it clicked. I rushed back home to show off the fruit of my day’s labour to my family (trying to detract attention from my worn-down shoes).
16 years on, this summer I’m cycling from London to Paris for The Running Charity. This will be a special journey on many levels. Half-French and half-English, I will be cycling between the capitals of my home countries with nothing but my legs and mind to keep me going. If you’re not in a rush (I plan to complete the 350km journey in 4 days), cycling is the way to go. It allows you to take in the landscapes you travel through and interact with the environment on a human scale which can often be lost in high-speed travel. Admittedly I’m cheating at the Channel: I’m catching the ferry. I will save more ambitious plans for swimming across, using a pedalo, or cycling through an access lane in the Channel Tunnel for later projects.
Fundraising for The Running Charity as part of this endeavour will make the trip even more meaningful. The Running Charity is a young, truly inspiring organisation set up to help disadvantaged and homeless young people build their confidence and drive through running. It achieves this by providing personalised fitness and training programmes to vulnerable 16-25 year olds in London and Manchester, with plans to expand across the UK. Using running as a simple yet powerful tool to encourage goal-setting and physical well-being has shown significant results. 91% of participants have found suitable accommodation, and secured education, training, or employment after completing the programme.
One of my aims for this project is also to draw attention to the benefits of running for everyone. In my experience, running is an undervalued source of physical and mental well-being. For me, it provides a break from the weekly routine, an opportunity to clear my mind and get back to basics, to put one foot in front of the other, and focus on getting up that next hill. All you need is a pair of shoes and a plan. What are you waiting for?
(Find out more about my European cycling adventure on my website, https://maximilienberthet.wixsite.com/crosschannelcycle)