Divisional Commander cycles 342 miles for children’s camp

published on 30 Apr 2018

In April, Divisional Commander of the Central East Division, Major Martin Hill, completed a 342 mile bike ride over five days. He visited every corps [churches] and centre in the division, including Kings Ripton Court Lifehouse in Huntingdon and The Salvation Army Trading Company in Wellingborough. The challenge has so far raised more than £4,000 for the divisional children’s camp that takes place in May.

Having grown up in Northamptonshire he already had a good knowledge of at least one county in the division that also covers Cambridgeshire, Leicestershire and part of Bedfordshire. But it’s clear that the ride was first and foremost about people, not places. 

What made you want to tackle this challenge?

At our divisional congress in February, organisers of our children’s camp appealed for people to sponsor places so more children can attend and enjoy a week of fun activities and learn more about God and faith.

While I was considering how I could do some fundraising, I was also looking at how I could build relationships across the area as I only arrived in January — suddenly a bike ride seemed like a good idea.

So I had three goals really: Firstly, to raise the profile of the children’s camp and encourage corps to advertise the opportunity, not only to children who attend on a Sunday but throughout the week. Secondly, to raise money for the camp so children can attend who may otherwise not be able to. And thirdly, to meet people from every corps and centre within the division.

So, are you sporty?

I’ve always enjoyed sport and exercise. If it’s a sunny day, my instinct is to grab my running shoes and go out for a run. 15 years ago I ran the London Marathon for the Army and when I was working at The Salvation Army Headquarters I would often go for a run at lunchtime with colleagues.

The first challenge with the bike ride was that I didn’t own a bike. I came up with the idea for the bike ride on a Wednesday and had bought my bike by the Friday.

How did you prepare for the ride?

I approached the training for the ride like I did for the marathon — building up the distance week on week. I had about five weeks to prepare. Weeknights I went to the gym and at the weekend I did a big cycle ride.

How did friends, family and colleagues react?

Everyone was very supportive. But while they thought it a good idea, they were keen to tell me they wouldn’t do it themselves.

I told Beth Herbert (Divisional Secretarial Support) what I wanted to do and she helped me plan the route and schedule. Major Ian Mountford (Divisional Mission Enabler) joined me on two days of the journey — it was encouraging to have his company.

How did you keep peddling for 342 miles?

The key is to keep positive — keep enthusiastic. Try not to think about it too much.

When I was training in the gym I had to read a book or I would get bored out of my mind. On the road, you just keep on going. Plus, Beth’s schedule had a strict timetable so there was no time to relax, no sight-seeing.

The reception at each stop was great. Wherever you went there were smiling faces. Some people had made banners and when I arrived at the finish line outside DHQ there was a band to welcome me.

Everyone was just so supportive. I think it was the cause — people believed in what I was trying to do.

Were the conditions kind?

The first two days there were lots of hills and then when I got into the Fens it got flatter. It was wet and misty at times but it wasn’t a problem.

How did you recover?

I had a couple of hot baths in the evenings during the ride but afterwards I just enjoyed a good rest. Getting up and down stairs for two or three days after I completed the challenge was difficult but the satisfaction of knowing I had done it was worth it. I think I’ve raised over £4,000.

And what’s happening to the bike?

I am keeping it but am giving it a rest. It’s in the shed.