An Aberdeenshire man is in training to cycle 430km coast to coast from Ardnamurchan to Boddam to raise funds for MS research.
Dave Halliday, 40, will travel from the most westerly to the most easterly point of Scotland during his challenge, which begins on Sunday, August 1.
He will be joined by two other team members who will each be raising money for different charities that have touched their lives.
Although Mr Halliday has enjoyed mountain biking for years, this will be his first challenge of this kind.
He said: “I’ve been mountain biking, on and off, for over 30 years but it was always a Saturday morning and fitness was my worst enemy. I’ve always endured the pain and misery of biking up the hill because I enjoy biking down again.”
A lot of unknowns
“Prior to training, the biggest ride I would have done will have been maybe 35km so this is a massive increase.
“The distance is a huge challenge for me and the training that I’ve done leading up to it, since March, has been well structured but biking through a foot of snow in April was definitely a low point.
“By committing to doing things all off-road it’s doubled the time the journey will take. It’s going to take six days whereas, on a road bike, it might have taken two or three.
“There are a lot of things that make it much more challenging. Off-road the surface is unpredictable. If it’s hard packed estate roads it should be good going but if it’s long grass or heather it’s going to be like going through treacle.
“If there’s heavy rain in the lead up it’ll make river crossings harder and there could be new deer fences, things like that – there are a lot of unknowns!”
Raising funds for MS
Mr Halliday is completing the cycle to benefit MS Society Scotland which supports the 15,000 people across the country who have the condition.
Before he has even set off on what he predicts will be a very hard challenge, Mr Halliday has been able to raise more than £4,000 for the charity.
He said: “Lots of people do this kind of thing for fun but it’s not fun for me – it’s too long, too far and too high. But it was never meant to be fun for me, it was meant to be hard.
“The point is to make it as difficult as it could be and still get through it. It’s right on the limit of what I can do mentally and physically. It will be fun afterwards to look back on.”
A personal connection
He has said the challenge will be an “emotional rollercoaster” because of the close personal connection he has to the condition.
“My mum has had MS for about 15 years. She has a rare type of the condition called tumefactive MS. It’s relapsing remitting MS but also with a tumour-like growth in the brain which can also cause symptoms.
“Her condition can cause loss of speech, balance, numbness, slurred speech and issues with coordination. She gets lesions on the brain and spine which affect her functionality.
“While it relapses and remits it has got progressively worse as, even though it does improve after a relapse, it never quite gets back to where it used to be. Following one relapse the hospital said she might not be able to walk again.
“She’s worked really hard and is now walking with a zimmer whereas before she was able to walk unaided. She was a nursery nurse most of her life and when she stopped doing that instead of retiring she became an aerobics and Zumba fitness instructor in her sixties having already been diagnosed with MS.
“I think the fact that’s she’s been healthy and fit that after any relapse she just wants to get back in the gym and do all the work to strengthen her core to help her balance. She’s been fitter than me her entire life.
“I’m not particularly happy riding across Scotland for six days but mum can’t even if she wanted do. But I can and that’s why I’m doing it.”
Lots of support
Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “A huge thank you to Dave for raising money and best of luck in this tough challenge.
“We’ve never been closer to stopping MS in its tracks and events like this play a key role in funding research into more and better treatments for everyone affected by the condition
Anyone who would like to support the fundraising challenge can donate via Dave Halliday’s Just Giving page.