London to Paris Charity Cycle

Stephanie and Robert Watson
Stephanie and Robert Watson

Not reading the small print has led one Dollingstown woman and her husband on a cycling trip to Paris - and all in aid of charity.

Stephanie Watson said she was browsing social media feeling less than fit when she spotted a post from Armagh Banbridge and Craigavon Council promoting their ‘Sofa to Saddle’ challenge.

“My husband, Robert, has been cycling for about 30 years and has taken part in various sportives during that time,” said Stephanie who is aged 53..

“I never showed any interest, but by the time he came home from the gym that day, I’d signed up to a cycling course which ended with a sportive challenge.

“I hadn’t read the small print, just that the event would be held on Father’s Day starting and finishing at Craigavon Lakes.

“Had I read the small print I might have been put off, because the sportive turned out to be a choice of 60Km or 100Km long.

“Both seemed daunting distances with only 10 weeks to prepare. So at Easter it was off to purchase a road bike ‘Lexa’ and the journey began,” said Stephanie.

“My Dad, Joe Mitchell, had cycled all his life and Mum tells of how he used to cycle from Lurgan to Stranmillis College every Wednesday evening to visit her!

“He retired in 2002, and decided to challenge himself to ‘Pedal to Paris’ raising money for the Royal British Legion Poppy Appeal.

“He trained hard and raised the money necessary for the trip.

“Unfortunately he came off his bike in June 2003, and after a month in Intensive Care in Craigavon Hospital he sadly passed away and so never fulfilled his dream of cycling from London to Paris.

“So what better way to remember him than attach a cream rose to ‘Lexa’ and cycle 100Km on a sunny June Father’s Day last year,” said Stephanie who is a teacher at Kings Park Primary School.

“It was tough, but encouraged all the way by my MAMIL (middle aged man in lycra), we made it!,” said Stephanie, whose husband Robert is aged 57.

“Fast forward to August and another Saturday morning surfing the internet, and into my head pops a cycle to Paris idea!

“After some research Robert and I signed up to a London to Paris cycle in aid of Marie Curie and in memory of my Dad. So right now we’re in training for the event in September 2018.”

The charity cycle is a 300km trip from London to Paris and the drive is on to build up the stamina to complete it.

“We’ve lots of road miles to do, and also a challenging fund raising target to meet.

“In the last three months we’ve raised around £1,500 thanks to a collection in Costcutters, Dollingstown, a fireside quiz, some donations from friends and family, five craft fairs and a collection at a Glenavon home game. However more events are planned.

“Next we are holding, what we hope will be our biggest fundraiser, a Coffee Morning in St Saviour’s Church, Dollingstown on Saturday 10th March 2018 from 10am until 12 15pm.

“We’d love to see as many people as possible there, have a chat, and raise some more money for Marie Curie. We hope you can make it.”