Harry, 81, completes epic cycle to raise £9,000 for Bothwell church

A church elder has raised £9,000 after completing a virtual bike ride between Land's End and John o'Groats.

Harry Marsh, 81, pedalled for a total of 62 hours in his garage to complete the 951-mile route which saw him hitting speeds of up to 40mph on downhill stretches.

He took on the "herculean" 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 16-months due to COVID-19.

Harry Marsh
Get on yer bike - Harry-Marsh

Mr Marsh hooked up his road bike to a Turbo Trainer which is connected to a laptop loaded with a programme called BKool.

He 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 he "thoroughly enjoyed the experience", particularly plotting the route which enabled him to cycle through Walton-le-Dale in Lancashire, the town where he was born, and he "waved" at his old house.

Speed

The retired business management and development consultant started his journey on the 8th of February and completed it before his birthday on the 6th of May.

He launched an online funding page but received many donations offline and did the final leg as part of the Kiltwalk, which meant money raised was topped up by the Sir Tom Hunter Foundation.

Commenting on his epic endeavour, Mr Marsh said: "There is no air flow in my garage so it's a real sweaty business, even when the temperature gets down to three degrees Celsius.

"The journey back to the house in cold weather gives you a nasty shock but the recovery time with my wife, Joan, providing warm towels and running the bath made it all worthwhile

"The set-up was very good and the system reacts to the actual road so a gradient of 15% is tough and your speed drops to 3mph.

"But downhills are great and I had no problem clocking speeds of 40mph regardless of the tight twists and turns and other traffic."

Harry Marsh Bothwell
Harry Marsh has only been cycling on a regular basis for six years

Mr Marsh said he had to climb 5,000 ft travelling through Devon and Cornwall and the same equivalent height again over the last 80 miles heading to John 'O Groats.

"The total climbing for the whole journey is about 27,000ft so the journey is not really that tough, many people would be able to do it," he added.

Mr Marsh said two bottles of Old Pulteney single malt whisky were awarded to people who guessed his total riding time most accurately.

Much needed work

Rev Iain Majcher is the minister of Bothwell Parish Church, which relies on its income to run outreach projects which benefit the wider community.

"Harry's herculean efforts have made such a difference to our finances and balancing the books after the chaos that COVID-19 has caused," he said.

"Not only has he cycled the length of the UK virtually, he is also heading up our fundraising team which have to date raised over £15,000 which is just remarkable.

"The money raised and which continues to be raised this year allows us to tackle much needed work within the church while also reaching out more and more into the community.

"No one has been immune to the effects of the past year and through the efforts of Harry and others we can continue to be a living presence for everyone in Bothwell."

Bothwell Parish Church
Bothwell Parish Church. Alison Clark-Dick

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."

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