Harry, 80, tackling 951 mile virtual bike ride to raise money for church
Published on 3 March 2021
A Church elder is on track to finish a virtual bike ride between Land's End and John o'Groats before his 81st birthday.
Harry Marsh is pedalling for one to two hours a day, up to four times a week to complete the 951-mile route by the sixth of May.
The grandfather of four took on the mammoth task to cycle the length of the UK to raise money for Bothwell Parish Church in South Lanarkshire which, like most congregations, has seen its income fall over the last 12 months due to COVID-19.
Mr Marsh has hooked up his road bike to a Turbo Trainer which is connected to a laptop loaded with a programme called BKool.
It has accurately plotted the route from the south-west of England to the far north of Scotland which gives the rider the realistic simulation of pedalling along actual roads and streets from a static position.
Mr Marsh said: "My family and friends are amused, impressed and supportive that I am doing this to raise money as part of a wider fundraising drive because our income has slowed to a trickle.
"I have never been a great sportsman and only started cycling six years ago after I retired following encouragement from my son David, which has helped my fitness a lot.
"So when I was thinking about what I could do to raise money, I thought it would be fun to do a virtual cycle between Land's End and John o'Groats.
"I was already using my Turbo Trainer in a bedroom over the winter but now that the weather has got a bit warmer I have moved it into the garage to the delight of my wife, Joan.
"I started my journey on the 8th of February and have ridden 260 miles so far and currently west of Tewkesbury in Gloucestershire.
"I am enjoying the experience and cycling no more than 30 miles at a time and if you are going uphill you have to pedal harder.
"The pace varies according to the terrain along the route so the programme gives you a realistic account of your efforts."
Mr Marsh, who is well known in Bothwell especially for his and his wife's instrumental role in the creation of the Scarecrow Festival, admitted that he wished he was cycling the route for real.
The retired business management and development consultant said his daughter Allison has set up an online Just Giving page and he has raised £1,250 so far.
Donors are encouraged to predict his total cycling time and the two most accurate guesses will be rewarded with a bottle of 12-year old Old Pulteney malt whisky each.
Mr Marsh is a keen golfer and despite his impressive fitness levels admitted that he wasn't that keen on physical activity when he was younger.
"When I was at school and did cross-country runs, I always came in last largely because we used to stop halfway and have a smoke," he laughed.
"I was a prop in the rugby team and a half decent bowler at cricket but it was always middle of the road stuff, I was never any good at any sport."
Rev Iain Majcher is the minister of Bothwell Parish Church, which relies on its income to run outreach projects which benefit the wider community.
"I am truly humbled that at the age of 80 Harry is taking on this challenge for the church while I struggle to run just to the end of the road," he said.
"COVID-19 has seen our income severely affected but Harry would rather look for solutions and so he got on his bike for us.
"His marathon ride embodies the belief that we all make up the body of the Church as he uses his talents.
"I am taken aback by his willingness to help and the kindness of everyone who has so far donated towards the work of the church."
Mr Majcher said Church of Scotland congregations are at the heart of the communities they serve.
"On our notice board we have the quote ‘Within these walls, let no one be a stranger'," he explained.
"This can be seen not only on a Sunday but also in our dementia cafe, foodbank, support for the elderly and work with the Boys Brigade.
"In a post-lockdown world things may look different but we still want to be here for everyone in our community and we can only do this with the support of others."