A combined team of 12 from Lincoln and Luton cycled in excess of 180 miles to Sheffield over 3 days. Dave Norsworthy and Trudy Stewart were part of their support team.
Remarkably, the majority of the 50 staff in Lincoln are ex forces and have a very close affiliation in particular with the RAF bases which are situated in Lincolnshire, especially RAF Waddington, which is located just four miles away. Lincolnshire is also the home of the world famous Red Arrows, who can invariably be heard and seen practising locally.
Staff at Lincoln were fortunate enough to meet and hear some of the AFPST athletes’ own personal experiences a few years ago when the Lincoln site supported the Spirit of Challenge. This was a truly humbling experience and left staff in no doubt of the challenges these athletes face and how the charity helps them.
The Ride of Steel generated a great deal of interest at Lincoln and volunteers were quick to respond and show their support. The four cyclists who participated from Lincoln, are ex-Servicemen, who, by their own admissions, have also had to deal with various hurdles and struggles throughout their lives and careers. They have been very honest when talking about their experiences and reading through their own biographies, you can see how they can relate to some of the struggles that the AFPST athletes face on a daily basis.
The four cyclists all share a great sense of humour and have bonded during their training sessions, giving 100% effort, supporting and providing invaluable advice and assistance to each of the team members, including those in the support role. We are truly proud to have such a great group from Lincoln who are the very epitome of team work.
The entire Lincoln site was behind all the cyclists taking part. We appreciated how tough this ride would be both physically and logistically, and were thinking of them as they undertook the challenge.
Our Lincoln cyclists were:
Chris Pearson – Systems Engineer
Having served with the RAF for 23 years and now working in industry alongside military and ex-military, it was inevitable that I was going to be involved in this challenge once I’d heard about it. During my Service days, I was a keen cyclist – both motorbike and road – but since leaving 10 years ago, the cycling and regular exercise as a whole have taken somewhat of a back seat. As probably happens to a lot of us as when we descend into middle age, I put weight on and in the last year or so have also been put onto meds to control raised blood pressure. I was feeling sorry for myself by the end of 2018…then...
I saw a TV programme at end of 2018 featuring several members of the Armed Forces who had become disabled through active Service. It put my small problems into perspective and so, at the start of this year and feeling inspired, I decided I needed to “get a grip”! Over the past few months I’ve lost two stone, lowered my blood pressure to where it should be and I’m feeling better than I have done for years. I owe the inspiration for this transformation in part to the people featured in that programme and to all who have been driven to overcome whatever obstacle they encounter in life.
Taking part in this challenge was the icing on the cake for me and enabled me to give something back to those who have, and continue to, inspire me.
Neil Harvey – Typhoon and Instructional expert on LTEWP project
I served for almost 27 years with the RAF as both ground crew and air crew, serving around the world including the Balkans. I was lucky and came away from my military Service physically unscathed but did come into contact with others that were not so lucky.
I’ve always been a bit sporty and have tried to maintain a reasonable level of fitness by running and, in recent years, with triathlon events (a bit like hard work when you like beer and food as much as I do). Recently though, my main focus has been on cycling as I entered and completed this year’s London to Brighton cycle ride for the British Heart Foundation. With that event over, I needed something else to focus on and knew instantly that the Ride of Steel would fill that requirement. Due to my military background, I take an interest in the Invictus games and am never ceased to be amazed, impressed and humbled by the achievements of individuals that take part in it. I feel it was a great honour to be a part of this event and cycling to the event as part as a unified Leonardo team.
Pete Watkins – Engineer
During my military career I was deployed all over the world, working with a wide cross-section of the tri-Service community and have always been impressed by the sheer determination to succeed, teamwork and camaraderie that the Armed Forces community provides; the Ride of Steel is no different, so I jumped at the chance to take part and provide support to this worthwhile cause.
Before leaving the Service, I experienced a period where my well-being was not as I would have expected it, and needed help and support to get through a difficult time. The Armed Forces community is unique in helping each other through adversity, and although my problems were not severe, I consider myself fortunate to have had this support to call on, as without it I know I would have been in a much worse place now. Activities such as the Ride of Steel are important to me, not only because it gives me a way to say thank you to those that helped me, but also for me to show my appreciation for those that continue to provide such inspiration through their battle with their own personal adversities.
Although I would only consider myself as an amateur cyclist, I decided to take the training wheels and shopping basket off my bike and participate in this ride. I have always tried to keep myself active and try new experiences as they arise; whether it is competing in target archery, running half-marathons or riding to Sheffield for the AFPST, I really enjoyed the challenge, raising money and awareness in support of injured Service persons and veterans alike.
Rob McMillan – Senior Internal Auditor
I served with the military from 1995 to 2013, including two years in the Royal Electrical Mechanical Engineers and five years as an RAF Physical Training Instructor, before getting my Commission and serving as a Communications, Electrical Engineering Officer in the RAF. For most of my career I was fit and enjoyed cycling, swimming, squash, skiing, mountaineering, rock climbing, canoeing etc. You get the idea.
Being made redundant in 2013 was a huge blow. I landed a job with Leonardo, working in Belgium, delivering cyber capability to the NATO Cyber Defence Platform. However, living overseas away from my family for over two year years, working way too many hours and not doing enough physical exercise took its toll on me; I piled on the weight and lost all motivation.
When I got the role of Senior Internal Auditor and started working in Lincoln, I started to get back into some sort of routine, doing training, rock climbing, swimming and judo. In 2017 we had a talk from the AFPST and I was reminded that, no matter what has happened to you, there is life after the Military and that having regular training and targets to achieve was key to staying focused.
The talk helped me to get over whatever issues I felt that I had, and realise that no matter how upset or annoyed I was with the way I had been treated, I needed to get over that and focus on the positive side. I still had my health, I have my family and am part of a great team; also, the level of banter within the office is excellent. I am now back to training 4 or 5 times a week and have used the charity events in recent years to aide my training routines. The charity events enable me to try and give something back to the guys that helped me come to my senses; even if they did not know it.
I have a huge amount of respect for the athletes that take the opportunity to pick themselves up after life has dealt them a blow. They are a positive light in a sometimes unfair world. I was proud to be able to support the AFPST and fully encourage anyone else to get involved and help make a difference.