Kingston woman Frances Oliver and her brother Martin Brannelly are packing their saddle bags to ride from London to Paris in June to raise money for The Royal Marsden Cancer Campaign, in memory of their mother Elizabeth, who died last May.
“I gave up my job to care for Mum and spent a lot of time at the hospital in Sutton," Frances said. "I saw first hand the amazing care she was given by the wonderful nursing staff. It’s a fantastic place and I know donations make a huge difference. When Mum died we donated money to the nurses on Smithers Ward, but I wanted to give something more back.”
Frances is already in training for the four-day ride, which will take her through Kent and the North Downs to Dover, where she will catch the ferry across to Calais before winding through Abbeville and Beauvais, eventually arriving at the Eiffel Tower in Paris.
“I cycle around Richmond Park five times a week and I’m looking to do more as the ride gets closer," she said. "My training goal is to do a 40-mile ride, twice a week, in the lead up to the trip.”
Frances is a little apprehensive about the cycle, but the 41-year-old is no stranger to sports events.
“I have cycled from London to Brighton twice and have done a couple of swimathons, but that was in my 20s and 30s, so the prospect of riding from London to Paris is a little nerve-wracking. I’m hoping plenty of practice will ensure I can keep up,” she added.
While the cycle will be a great achievement, it will also be a poignant time for Frances and her brother.
“When you’re affected by something like cancer, doing something like the London to Paris helps give direction and a focus through the grieving process," she said. "It’s also a chance for me to give something back after all the great care my Mum received.”
Frances has already had a number of donations and pledges, but you can support her through this webpage. Or you could take part yourself: the London to Paris ride is open to cyclists of all skills, you don’t even need to have your own bike.
“For four days you get to see parts of both the British and French countryside, which you would not normally get the chance to appreciate," said Amanda Heaton, Fundraising and Community Development Manager at The Royal Marsden NHS Foundation Trust. "Everyone who has done the ride has come away from it with an enormous sense of achievement. Not only because they have successfully cycled nearly 300 miles, but because they know they have made a difference to the lives of thousands of cancer patients.
“All the money raised for the Cancer Campaign goes directly into enhancing the world-class cancer care, treatment and research provided at The Royal Marsden,” she added.
For more information, visit the Cancer Campaign website.