My friends and family know I like a challenge, but this one was going to be a very big ask both physically and mentally.  I aimed to cycle 900+ miles (1500 km) in nine days from Land's End to John O'Groats, raising much needed funds for nine very worthwhile causes.  I would be cycling an average of 100 miles and 5100ft of climb a day with no rest days. The route was divided into nine stages and I picked a different charity for each day, the charities being ones which have significance to me and my family, friends and colleagues. The first on my list was Aspire: having suffered a back injury that resulted in spine surgery in 2013, I realise how lucky I am and also how far this challenge was from my first tentative 10 minute sessions of rehab on a static bike unable to touch to handlebars and out of breath.

Four years later I found myself sitting on the train to Penzance, a train I had booked three months earlier, when three months seemed like such a long time to train, prepare my bike, my kit, nutrition and myself physically and mentally. It had been a hard three months on all fronts, and I felt under trained, under nourished and under stress hoping that the sight of Land's End and being reunited with the bike box I frantically shipped three days earlier would start to motivate me. Luckily it did! That and pulling on the Aspire cycling shirt, reminding me of my motivation. The day started with bright sunshine, clear skies and the lack of traffic, perfect! Living in Buxton, I won't dare complain about the heat, so the 27 degrees was unexpected, and a rare chance for short sleeves. Cornwall is a seriously big county and after 95 miles and 7000ft, the crossing of the Tamar felt epic. And so on to Tavistock, a chance to regroup, take stock of the bike, the nutrition, and of me. I had survived day 1 and didn't feel too bad!

Day 2 started with a hill - a 13 mile, 2000ft hill, just up and up, but the top of Dartmoor was stunning, with wild ponies peppering the panoramic views making it almost worth it. It wouldn't be all this good, but Devon that day was beautiful.

Day 3 was always going to be the start of the unknown. Yes, I have ridden on three consecutive days, but never these distances so it was always going to be interesting. Thankfully, the Clifton suspension bridge provided a wonderful distraction, followed by the Severn Bridge as Wales greeted me with a shower. The rest of the day was hard miles, drifting in and out of Wales to Monmouth, then the drag to Hereford and finally Ludlow. Tough day.

Day 4 was my longest day: 115 miles, which seemed to go on and on. Shropshire was relentless, but eventually I made it to Cheshire.  The thing about Cheshire is it is flat, fast but boring, no highlights really - except at 87 miles I had a cake stop!

My colleagues always tease me that whenever I am in the North West it rains and oh how right they were - leaving Chorley it started and by Preston, I was soaked through! I thought about leaving it there and still can't believe I continued. Throughout the journey the most common message from the sat-nav had been 'head north on road' and somehow I managed to do just that, head down and gritted teeth. 

The next day started with a calm brisk ride out of Carlisle. Cold, but thankfully dry and soon I crossed into Scotland, and the realisation that it would take four days to reach the top. Scotland is about scale, and the distance between places can be vast. Feeling a bit under the weather from the wet cold the day before, the day dragged.  That, and the fact that it was 110 miles.

I had an overnight in Cumbernauld and having been advised that 'even in the rain, the rest of Scotland would look magnificent after Cumbernauld!' I tried to be positive. The day started cold but fresh, not me though, I was stiff and tired and struggling. On most days, you count down the miles: sometimes slowly, sometimes quickly and that was the case today, each mile a chore, until at 15 miles in I faced a hill that didn't end, it wasn't pretty! But what goes up, etc. and the descent through the Trossachs was beautiful, even on a slightly overcast day. Continuing up through Tyndrum, the day just got better and better as I started to unwind, forgot about the aches and pains and opened my eyes to the magnificent vistas. Continuing on through the Grampian Mountains, and up onto Rannoch moor, before a breath taking descent past Glen Coe and on to Ballachulish.

This part of the country is simply stunning, and when you need all the breath you have to pedal, it is some scenery that effortlessly takes it away!

Day 8 flew by as, after heading north to Fort William, I cycled across from the west to east coast, mainly on fast main roads. Even so, the views were stunning. 

The last day was always going to be filled with emotion. I had been in a strange bubble for days obsessed by time, and the distance travelled. Until the last day, the daily destination had crept up on me unwittingly, and before I had a chance to think about it, it had been Tavistock 3 miles, or Cheddar 6. Day 9 however, was different. Over the previous 8 days time had felt distorted, warped by the winding lanes of Cornwall and Devon, stretched out by the Cheshire plains and the vast expanse of the Great Glen, it finally recalibrated 20 miles north of Evanston with a signpost saying 'John O'Groats - 85 miles'. After seeing the sign, time dragged, with every minute feeling like ten as the hills reared up in alpine fashion, and my spirit was at an all-time low, but sometimes things can change rapidly on a bike and as the rain began to ease the wind changed, and with it the day. Finally, the end was imminent and I could begin to relax as my thoughts turned to beer and dry clothes. It had been a truly epic experience covering 927 miles, with just over 61 hours spent in the saddle.

Jason raised £2,600 for the nine charities, £237 for Aspire.  If you would like to take on a challenge for Aspire, please email [email protected] with your idea!

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