'I'm riding for a fitter future with my son'

Participants in the London to Brighton Bike Ride

Have fun and help beat heart disease, sign up to the London to Brighton Bike Ride here

Embarking on any kind of exercise-based challenge always raises doubts. Am I fit enough to complete it? Will I make it to the finish?

The beauty of the London to Brighton Bike Ride is that almost anyone can do it.

The slogan for the British Heart Foundation’s (BHF) flagship event is ‘it’s not a race’ — and while all the 18,000 participants will expend some energy, it’s something that can be completed at their own pace.

Jane Clarke-Burns

Jane Clarke-Burns (right) is one of the greatest examples you could ever meet. “I’m the most unlikely cyclist ever, but I’m going to do the ride,” she says.

It’s this kind of positivity that gives this annual ride a real feel-good factor — and with all money raised going to the BHF’s research into heart disease, you can improve your own health, and that of the nation, at the same time.

Doing it for dad

Jane is such an inexperienced cyclist that she recently fell off a stationary bike in a spinning class.

“I’m an epic bike failure,” laughs the 43-year-old massage therapist from Lancaster. “I decided to try spinning as part of my training, and when I was told to stand up on the pedals, off I went. It wasn’t my finest hour. And I didn’t even own a bike before signing up. When I bought one, it had no pedals, and I couldn’t operate the gears! So I’m as much a novice as anyone on the ride will be.”

Jane is happy to joke about it all, but her reasons for participating in the London to Brighton Bike Ride are deadly serious.

“My dad died from a heart attack in his fifties,” she says. “I was 19. The family were all there, and it was a very difficult time, a huge loss. Dad did lots of sport and seemed fit, but he was a smoker and he drank. For me, I’d had this ideal life with loving parents, so it was a massive wrench.

“Dad is always in my thoughts, and my mum also has heart problems, so the BHF has always been our charity. I thought it would be great to try to raise some money for them.”

Olympic dreams

It was Jane’s son Anan who snapped her out of her exercise-free lifestyle. “I’m a single, working parent, and that’s always been an excuse to be this sloth-like person.

“Anan (right) is obscenely sporty — he represented Team GB in the World Biathle Championship in Florida last year and dreams of being an Olympian. But he thinks I’m hampering him because I do nothing sporty with him.

“So after a glass of pink wine, I signed up for the ride! We’re training together, and he’s being my coach. He loves it, and he’s great motivation. He says to me, ‘you’re doing this so you don’t have a heart attack’.”

An initial six-mile experiment has been followed by much longer jaunts and many spinning lessons. Jane believes building up gradually is the key.

“I felt better for it and I’m learning cycling is fun,” she says. “I’ll be happy just to finish, but Anan wants me not to come last, and thinks I can do it in six hours. I’d say to anyone scared of the challenge, just sign up. Make it fun, don’t do too much at first, and enjoy yourself.

Getting fitter might save your life.

“There’s no time limit from London to Brighton, so I’m looking forward to an enjoyable day. Hopefully it can be the start of a fitter life I can share with my son.”

This year’s ride is on Sunday 18 June. Take on the challenge and help beat heart disease. Sign up now at bhf.org.uk/l2b2017