HUNDREDS of fundraising cyclists took to the Borough’s rural roads on Sunday for the annual Rotary Club of Mar Dyke Valley Thurrock Cycle marathon.
The event, which started and finished at the Civic Hall, Blackshots, has become a major part of the Thurrock charity fundraising calendar and once again has raised thousands of pounds for local good causes and national charities.
Riders had the choice of a seven mile or 21 mile course, while some bravehearts doubled up and rode 42 miles (and a handful even tripled it to 63 miles).
The riders varied in all shapes, sizes and ages, with veteran Help for Heroes fundraising champion Stan Wall, belying his 89 years, once again taking part to bring his total of cash raised from cumulative events to near Â£60,000 as he topped the age scale and seven-year-old Emma Harris, among the last of those taking the 21 mile challenge, drawing huge applause as she crossed the finishing line!
Around 400 riders took part in the event which saw the riders set off on their task by Borough Mayor Cllr Cathy Kent and her consort Cllr Steve Liddiard – with the help of Mar Dyke Rotary president Melvin Page.
The event, as usual, attracted sponsorship from a number of local organisations, including intu Lakeside, Port of Tilbury, Decathlon, Scania, S&J Hire, Impulse Leisure and IFS Limited. The principle charities supported by the event are Great Ormond Street Hospital, Essex Air Ambulance and Thurrock Community Chest – though riders could elect to support their own charities and they will received support from the Rotary Club, with donations handed out at a special annual dinner to be held later in the year.
The staff of the Decathlon sports and leisure store at Lakeside also turned out to give technical support to riders, with cycling department manager Damian Solinsky and workshop manager Reuben Nunez on hand to give riders’ cycles the once over before the event and technical support if required. The store’s operations manager Margot Lane was also present and at the end of the event was able to announce that from a lucky draw of all riders taking part Sarah Mooney, 43, of Chadwell St Mary, had won a Â£750 racing cycle.
Sarah was stunned at hearing the news as she finished the event, saying: "I can’t believe it, I never win anything, I’m stunned. This is a super event and now this had made it extra special – and I get a medal for finishing!"
First home, though organisers stress that their annual event is not a race, was 13-year-old James Speers who completed the seven mile course in around 35 minutes. Once he arrived, the riders followed in numbers over a two hour period – full of smiles and praise for the organisers – and they all received medals from the Mayor and Mr Page.
There were a number of large fundraising groups among their ranks, one of the biggest being family and friends of David Clay, who lost his life aged just 43 in April from the skin cancer Melanoma. David’s brother, Rob, who took part in the marathon, said: "We sadly lost David earlier this year and we wanted to pay tribute to him by raising awareness of the problem of Melanoma and raise funds for the charity that fights against him. We are all originally from Grays but family and friends have come from far and wide to be here today to take part."
Perennial Cycle marathon supporter’s The Classic Hair Company once again turned out in force top support the event and riding for the 12th time were Ann-Marie Offord, Ian Wilmore and Andrew Offord who rode to support Ann-Marie’s daughter Alice, now 21, who was born with Tracheo-Oesophageal Fistula, a congenital condition that means she could not swallow or digest food. Thanks to the support of the charity TOFS, Alice and other children are able to combat the problem and Alice has just qualified as a teacher, a success in life which her family are delighted to mark by raising funds through the cycle marathon.
One of the event organisers, Graham Dockerill, said: "Once more to see so many people turning out to enjoy the event and raise so much for such a wide variety of good causes is amazing. Every year we are delighted and amazed by the generosity and support of local people who take part, those who sponsor them and – of course – the many local organisations who offer us sponsorship top enable this wonderful event to happen."