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Thursday 10 July 2014

Solent staff member to cycle across Malawi desert

Here we have Southampton Solent University staff member, Zoe Beresford, who is cycling across the Malawi desert in October with her partner Adam to help raise much needed funds for Myton Hospice.

We interviewed Zoe to find out about how she is preparing for the challenge.


You’re about to undertake a huge challenge – tell us a little bit more about the ride itself.

The ride is taking place in October in the beautiful country that is Malawi. We leave all nice and fresh on the 3rd October and return on the 12th October a lot more tired than when we left no doubt. We are cycling over 350 miles across the Malawi with temperatures averaging around 27 degree Celsius, cycling in that climate will be a challenge in itself, let alone taking into consideration that it will be off road and over a long distance each day.

What prompted you to decide to cycle across Malawi?

The hospice that cared for my father had posters up in the main reception about the cycle and it was one of the first things that caught my eye. When you are going through such a devastating time, it takes a lot to grab your attention but I couldn’t get this cycle out of my head. I called my boyfriend, Adam, in November and told him that I had signed myself up and had basically signed him up too. Something just clicked and I went straight to fundraising at the hospice and signed us up!

Zoe cycling.

Tell us more about Myton Hospice, who you are raising the funds for:

My father passed away on the 30th December 2013 in the Warwick Myton hospice in Warwickshire after a two-year battle with cancer. When people hear the word ‘hospice’ they think of older people, which is exactly what my mentality was before I experienced it first hand, but my dad was 45 year old when he fell asleep and nothing can ever prepare you for someone being stolen like that.

The Myton Hospices team provide high quality, specialist care to people whose condition no longer responds to curative treatment, from diagnosis to death. They aim to meet their physical, psychological, spiritual and social needs and ensure their families are supported both through and after this difficult time. They are also committed to training, supporting and encouraging other care providers to practice good palliative care.

Each year they need £7.7 million to run and this is heavily reliant on donations from the public. When you see the amazing work they do and experience it yourself you just want to help them as much as you can.

Here is how the money will help the hospice:

  • £25 = An hour of specialised nursing.
  • £62 = A patient to attend one of their day hospices.
  • £70 = A Myton at home patient visit.
  • £135 = A bereavement counselling session.

Zoe and her dad.

How many hours a week are you spending training for your challenge?

I am waking up at 6am every morning and going for a cycle between 1 and 1.5 hours, which are usually between 10 and 16 miles. I am doing this so I can get the majority of my training completed before work. After work I am also attending 3 or 4 Sport Solent classes ranging from Zumba to Pilates to work on my strength training as well as a bit more cardio.

In June, we cycled 45 miles to and from the hospice that my father was in and we were the last ones to leave and the first ones to arrive back, so this has helped our confidence of knowing we will be fit enough to complete the challenge. My training will become more intense the closer I get but this training regime seems to be working well for me at the moment.

What kind of sport/exercise are you taking part in when training?

  • Cycling – on and off road (short and long distance)
  • Zumba
  • Yoga
  • Pilates
  • Studio Cycling
  • Walking long distance

What do you anticipate will be the most difficult part of the challenge?

The most difficult part of the challenge for me personally is going to be the moment when I know it’s all over. There are so many emotions behind this challenge and the fact that it has been my main focus since my dad passed away, I know that there is going to be a massive down point when it’s not there to distract me anymore.

The other difficulty is getting up every morning after spending the previous day cycling for miles and miles and knowing you have to do the same thing again. The beautiful scenery and the country will be a massive distraction but I have no doubt we are all going to be very tired, burnt and have sore bottoms which is going to be hard to deal with!

We hear you are undertaking the journey with your partner, Adam. How have you supported each other whilst preparing?

During the week days, I cycle before work and Adam cycles 20 miles each day on his journey to work. This is to really build on our endurance and getting used to cycling every day. At weeks, we try and go for a long cycle together to get used to cycling more long distance and also sticking with each other whilst cycling. There is a HUGE height difference between us, 1 ft 3 inches, so Adams legs are longer and therefore means he cycles faster (Or at least that’s my excuse!)

Zoe and her partner.

How have your family and friends supported you on the run up to the challenge?

My family and friends have been absolutely amazing. We have had various fundraisers from a live band night at one of my dad’s pubs to cake bake sales and they have all pitched in to help. They are all very excited for us with the challenge and have helped us raise over £6,500 towards our £10,000 target, which is just incredible!

What’s the longest ride you’ve done so far?

The challenge cycle in June was my longest ever ride, it was 45 miles and we managed in less than 4 hours!

Please tell us you’ll know what to do if you get a puncture?

Not a clue. At the moment, when something goes wrong I either flutter my eye lashes sweetly at Adam or take it to a shop to be fixed. Luckily, we will have a support team with us in Malawi so they will be able to help with all the technical difficulties we face.

We hear you and your partner have raised over £6K – you must be proud to have raised so much!

We have raised £6563 so far which is just incredible as it’s just donations from friends and family, including a wonderful donation from Fred Dinenage!

What are you most looking forward to doing when the event is over?

I’m not looking forward to it ending at all! It’s going to be very sad when it’s all over, I will just have to find something else to keep me occupied…

Is this a one off for you or do you intend to keep biking when it’s done?

I am already looking in to completing a London to Paris Challenge next year. It has increased my fitness so much and I have just got myself a new bike so I will most definitely be keeping up the cycling. It’s my newfound love (Sorry Adam!)

Zoe and her family.

How do we go about sponsoring you and Adam?

The best way to donate is via our fundraising website: zoeberesford

You can also keep an eye on our progress via our Facebook page: BeresfordChart.Malawi2014