Laura Ellis, 33, from Blackburn in West Lothian, and Patrick Medhurst-Feeney, 27, of Plymouth, are aiming to raise over £6000 for Help for Heroes and Veterans with Dogs, who have both been helping the veterans to recover from life-changing physical and mental health problems.
The former armed force professionals aim to complete the impressive 518 mile challenge in just nine days using recumbent bikes, starting from Edinburgh Castle on Saturday May 13 and finishing in Exeter Quay on Wednesday, May 22.
The first day of their marathon challenge will take them to Moffat in Dumfries and Galloway before crossing the border on day two and onto Penrith.
The pair, who share a love of dogs, met during their recovery and kept in contact before Laura came up with the idea of the epic cycle ride - a mammoth task for the young veterans.
Laura, formerly of the Royal Artillery and Royal Horse Artillery, was unable to continue her career in the army after being diagnosed with nocturnal epilepsy – a condition that causes seizures.
In 2015, her medical issues worsened when she was rushed to hospital with no feeling in the lower half of her body. She was diagnosed with Cauda Equina, a rare but serious condition that affects the spinal cord, underwent spinal surgery at Edinburgh’s Western General Hospital a year ago and still faces ongoing lower back problems. She also has mental health issues including PTSD following her service.
Laura said: “I got a grant from Help for Heroes for a recumbent bike last December. It’s the only way I can cycle as I can’t sit up on a normal bike. I also got my assistance dog Scout through Veterans with Dogs. He’s amazing – he can predict my seizures 20 minutes beforehand. I wanted to give something back to both charities – they’ve made such a difference to my recovery journey. It has just snowballed ever since!”
As soon as her three daughters and two stepsons are dropped off at school and nursery, Laura is out on her bike training around West Lothian.
Her cycle partner, Patrick Medhurst-Feeney, is also no stranger to life changing medical issues. Following an accident during his second tour of Afghanistan in 2013, he was flown back to the UK for intensive treatment and has since faced both mental and physical health problems.
Patrick, a former Veterinary Technician at the Royal Army Veterinary Corp, said: “Neither of us work at the moment and we needed something to aim for. We have both been supported by Help for Heroes, I also played cricket for the charity and we wanted to give something back.”
“I’ve done a bit of mountain biking before but never been a keen cyclist until now. The benefits of physical fitness for mental health are well-known – when I am out training I don’t worry about anything else going on in my head.”
All the money raised will be going straight to the charities. The pair – who have already raised over £1000 of their target - have had generous support from local companies.
Anyone wishing to support Laura and Patrick can do so at https://mydonate.bt.com/fundraisers/thetriketour17 and follow their progress on Facebook