Would you cycle 200 miles for someone you love? Alan Nesbitt, Partner at Forrester Boyd, is doing just that for Alzheimer’s Society in early September.
Alan has always been active, playing football and squash for many years, running a marathon in 1983, and the last of three half marathons at the 2000 Great North Run. Unfortunately, this left him with hip and knee issues that meant exercise involving impact left him almost unable to walk the next day. “Getting roped into cycling gave me the chance to get out in the fresh air and keep fit without worrying about the impact on my joints,” he says.
The 200 mile endurance cycle for Alzheimer’s Society is an entirely new challenge for Alan, who completed his first ever 100 mile ride as part of Forrester Boyd’s 80th anniversary celebrations four years ago.
“I train when I can fit it in around work,” Alan explains. “I like to get out for one or two short rides in the week and then a longer one on weekends. I enter a number of Sportives (organised bike rides that are not races) and generally ride the 100 mile version.
“Going for a 200 mile ride is on another level altogether. I simply don’t have the time to replicate that distance in training, so will be relying on building a good base of stamina and then trying to block the pain during the ride. It will hurt!”
Alan has a personal reason for supporting an Alzheimer’s charity, having witnessed the devastating impact of the disease within his own family.
“My mother-in-law has suffered with Alzheimer’s for a few years now and it has been awful watching the slow degeneration. She is still generally aware of who everyone is - but not always. The other week she spent a day out with my wife thinking that she was her friend rather than her daughter.”
The distress caused by Alzheimer’s cannot be underestimated, as Alan has experienced first-hand.
“My mother-in-law rang us at 5am one morning to ask where her mother was. My wife explained that she had died 50 years ago. Her mum rang back ten minutes later upset over the death of her mother, so my wife went round to be with her, only to repeat the process another four times.”
While there is greater public awareness of Alzheimer’s as a disease which affects memory, Alan knows how this can impact sufferers in reality.
“I think many people don’t realise that it is a slow relentless disease that doesn’t follow a smooth trajectory,” Alan explains. “It’s not just forgetting why you went into a room, it’s forgetting how old you are, forgetting to drink - leading to issues with dehydration, and forgetting to take medication - or forgetting that you have taken it and duplicating it.
“It can also lead to loss of temper and aggression when the sufferer thinks, for instance, that they are cooking regular meals and doesn’t understand why someone comes in every day to do this for them,” Alan continues. “In our particular case, my mother-in-law has never accepted that she has Alzheimer’s and gets very distressed when any mention is made of it.”
Sponsored cycles like Alan’s can have a life-changing impact for people affected by dementia. Donations to Alzheimer’s Society can speed up the search for an effective treatment for vascular dementia by paying for clinical trial drugs; provide a space for people worried about dementia to connect, tell their stories and support each other; and enable people with dementia to keep doing the activities they love and try new things, from going to a football match to visiting a café for lunch.
To find out more about Alan’s superhuman cycle ride, click here.