KidSpirit

My Quest 79 Challenge

Life and DeathAwesome Moments

Dear KidSpirit readers,

My father taught me the first thing I need to do is introduce myself. My name is Chloe Marriage, I am 11 years old, and I have had Cerebral Palsy forever and it won’t go away. But it will never stop me doing anything and showing people what I can do, NOT what I can’t do!

I have an amazing family and two brothers who are lovely most of the time. At school I love art in the classroom and trekking outside for sport. My daddy also loves cycling, and just over a year ago we bought a Hase Pino, which is a semi-recumbent tandem bike fitted with calliper pedals to help me cycle. I sit on the front and my daddy sits behind me and we have sing-song while we pedal.

At the start of last year, my daddy met Karen Darke (adventurer, paralympic athlete, speaker, author, and contributor to KidSpirit) and I came up with a crazy idea of undertaking a Quest 79 Challenge in support of Karen. I wanted to help show that ordinary people can do extraordinary things by expanding their horizons at a personal level, which can knock on into their local communities, then potentially have a global effect.

Our aim, in keeping with Karen’s Quest 79 theme, was to cycle 79 miles from Bristol back to our home near Newbury, supported by my Uncle Ollie on his bike. Daddy and I rode on our tandem, raising money for the Spinal Injuries Association in the UK, where Karen is involved.

The start of the ride in Queens Square, Bristol. Photo courtesy of Chloe Marriage.

The date was set for the 22nd of August 2020, and we had to train; it was tiring but great fun, and I felt part of a team which made it easier. In truth I loved the training. We tested the bike, what we needed to eat, when we had to stop, and even how to go for a wee, which is not easy when you have Cerebral Palsy and can’t walk!

One of my other uncles lives in Melbourne, Australia, and wanted to be part of our challenge. Sadly, Melbourne was in lockdown because of COVID at the time of the event, and poor Uncle Mike had to do it on a turbo trainer. To make matters worse for him, he decided that, as I was on a tandem, he should do double the distance! Yes, he did 158 miles and stayed on his porch; we call it going nowhere fast! He raised money for Spinal Injuries Australia to help people where he lives.

I want to share with you how the event made me feel. In fact I made up the perfect word for it – “Scared-Excited.” We even changed the words to a famous Pointer Sisters song from “I’m so excited” to “I’m scared-e xcited,” which we sang as we pedalled. On the day of the big ride we had to get up really early, before the sun was awake, and drive to Bristol. Daddy packed me breakfast in a box and, as I ate it before we got going, told me that the day would be hard, that I would get tired and hungry, and that it may rain and we would be uncomfortable at times, but it was important to keep going, to never give up, as when we had done it no one could take it away from us, and we were raising money to help people who had spinal injuries.

We set off and once we got pedalling I was ok (well, for the first mile). Then the rain drops started to fall and it blimin’ old chucked it down. We hoped it was only a little bit, but NO, it was set for the next hour and we got drenched, so much so that puddles formed in my coat, but I was still happy. I could see daddy looking worried and he asked me if I was okay – I pointed up at the sky and shouted, “You will not defeat me rain.” I could see him smile and stop worrying about me and our spirits lifted as we laughed at the situation we were in but I knew it wouldn’t last forever. It made me feel like we were a team taking on hard times and winning. Just outside Bath, 20 miles in, we met my grandfather and cousin, who cycled with us for 10 miles along the towpath. It was special to have three generations of my family riding together, and the sun decided it would come out to shine on us. Our team was bigger for a while, so I was proud and it felt like we could pedal forever.

The day was not without incident, as just before lunch, having cycled down a very bumpy towpath by a canal for miles, which was uncomfortable, slow, and tiring, my Uncle Ollie was riding the tandem with me and went round a sharp corner. He was caught off balance and nearly tipped me off onto the tarmac, saving me at the last moment. It scared me out of my life and I had to have a little rest to compose myself before we started pedalling again. Then, just as we were stopping for lunch, it happened AGAIN; the tandem slipped on the gravel, nearly tipping me off, and Uncle Ollie hurt his back, but nothing that a lot of pasta at lunch could not sort out for me. Uncle’s Ollie’s wife is a physio and was on hand to help him feel better. It made me realise that things can go wrong quickly, and what you think and feel can change in an instant, but when you stop and think you can get things right in your head and make it work again. With pasta in my tummy, I was going to do this.

The end of the ride. Photo courtesy of Chloe Marriage.

The second half of the ride was thankfully less eventful and more sunny and we pedalled with my Aunty Penny. Five miles from home we were cheered on by more family members, which gave me the boost I needed, and three miles from home I started singing a song that I made up. The words were simply, “I am proud of myself.” I was an 11-year-old girl with Cerebral Palsy and had just cycled 79 miles in a single day – lots of 11-year-old girls without Cerebral Palsy can’t do that! It’s something I will never forget and didn’t believe I could do before I tried. We raised over £7,000 and expanded the horizons of ourselves and others even as far away as Australia. This was my first adventure and I’m planning more, including a 1,000-mile ride from the southern tip of England to the northern tip of Scotland (Lands End to John O’Groats) with my brothers and Daddy when I am 16 .

I suggest that you challenge yourself and push beyond what you think is possible as you may surprise yourself, like I did. I learnt a lot about myself, like how things can make me feel, and how quickly that can change, but more importantly how you can make others feel; when it was raining and my Daddy was worried about me, I made him happy and stopped his worrying by showing him I was okay. That is a powerful gift.

This has given me a thirst for adventure and taught me I CAN do things that seem very difficult to start with. Get a good team and a good plan, and you will be surprised what you can do. I will now think bigger, as this is only the start of my adventures. I can’t wait to see where we go from here!

Love,
Chloe

Chloe Marriage is a 12-year-old from Newbury, Berkshire, in England. She has Cerebral Palsy but that does not stop her embracing life and adventure, especially by riding her adapted tandem bike with her father. They have a number of adventures under their belt already and have plans for many more in the future.

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