By Lucy Clapham
Saturday, July 12, 2014
When Simon Richardson slides into the saddle next week to take on an epic cycling challenge he will have more to spur him on than just his fundraising efforts.
As the super-fit dad from Burgh Castle will also be marking a year free of the deadly disease that shattered his health and career aspirations.
The 30-year-old was diagnosed with drug-resistant tuberculosis (TB) in 2012 soon after returning to Norfolk from a six-year global travelling adventure.
The shock diagnosis scrapped his lifelong ambition of a career in the Army, as he went from being able to run a mile in five minutes to getting out of breath after walking 100 metres.
But he battled back from the disease and just three months after finishing gruelling treatment he was re-selected for the Army and is now serving in the Second Battalion, The Princess of Wales’ Royal Regiment.
And before he is posted to Cyprus in August the former Cliff Park High School and East Norfolk Sixth Form College student is taking on the end to end challenge to mark a year on from beating TB, while raising money for charity.
His 1,000 mile journey is supporting TB Alert, the UK’s national tuberculosis charity, and he will be pushing his body and renewed fitness to the limit as he is hoping to complete the course in just nine days - shaving three days off the average.
Simon, who ran a marathon in a desert and trekked to Everest base camp during his travels, said: “I do an awful lot of running and my job keeps me fit, but biking is a different kind of fitness.
“The training I have done has been quite painful but I’m looking forward to it.”
He will be joined on the ride by a friend and the pair are hoping to get 12 hours in the saddle a day while carrying 20kg packs, which will hold their tent accommodation as they will be sleeping on the roadside along the way.
“I think it’s going to be a lot tougher than I think it’s going to be,” Simon added. “I’ve done a few 200km rides and the next day my legs are killing so God knows what my body’s going to feel like. But we’ll get through it.”
The bike ride is not the only sporty challenge Simon has taken on in aid of TB Alert, after he rowed the equivalent of the English Channel while still under going treatment for the disease.
His rowing challenge raised more than £4,000 and he is hoping to raise another £1,000 through his cycling adventure.
Simon said it was “brilliant” to finally be in the Army after completing the challenging six-month Combat Infantryman’s Course at Catterick, North Yorkshire. He was one of only 15 to finish the course, out of the 63 who started, and came out with the fittest recruit award.
Simon said: “Things are definitely looking up. I appreciate my health a lot more now and I’m the fittest I have ever been without doubt, both mentally and physically. My friends and family are chuffed.”
Mike Mandelbaum, TB Alert chief executive, said: “We are constantly impressed by Simon’s get up and go, which even drug-resistant TB couldn’t dampen. “It’s fantastic to see him once again setting himself a sporting challenge to raise funds for TB Alert.”
■ To sponsor Simon visit www.justgiving.com/Simon-Richardson7