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Cathedral in St Petersburg in Russia

Cycling through Russia in my late seventies: Anne's story

It’s time to forget your pre-conceived ideas of retirement. Daytime TV, tea and biscuits, bingo and knitting need not be your destiny.

Anne M Jones is a keen cyclist with a big heart and a taste for adventure. Now in her late seventies, Anne has spent most of her life making a difference for valuable causes - and she's not about to stop. In 2022, she'll cycle with us through Russia to raise funds for Alzheimer’s Research.

We always love to chat to our participants and Anne’s story has inspired all of us. We don’t doubt it’ll inspire you too, so read on to see what made Anne jump in her saddle for this cycle.

What inspired you to join our Cycle Moscow to St Petersburg challenge in 2022?

The ad for the Russia bike ride popped into my inbox the day the vaccine against COVID-19 was announced and I was already thinking on the possibilities of catching up on a lost year. I was looking for an opportunity to have a good time while making money for a good cause and this challenge fit the bill.

Russia is a country that has always fascinated me, with its history of so much intrigue and unpleasantness alongside wonderful music and literature. I am really looking forward to the itinerary and although it is over 18 months away, it offers a real incentive to keep fit - and to try and learn the language!

I’m cycling in support of Alzheimer's Research, because I am so grateful to be fit and well, unlike many of my contemporaries. A friend younger than me died from Alzheimer's last year- I used to visit her and it was so distressing to see her decline. Such a cruel illness.

How has the lock-down been for you?

Lock-down has enforced quieter times for me. Like most people, I had no idea how it would affect me and I soon realised I would turn into a couch potato if I was not careful.

I also realised more than ever how fortunate I am with my life. I have a loving family, friends and so many interests to keep me busy, so it would be churlish of me to grumble about things going wrong, such as an IT crash.

In January 2020, I was planning to cycle from London to Paris, in St Lucia or in Russia. Of course, none of those could happen, but I love cycling and I didn’t let the travel restrictions keep me off my bike. Instead, I kept closer to home and cycled around London, Kent and Sussex to raise money for charities connected with refugees and for children in Gaza.

I had also been going to Calais for some years to help the refugees there, but the lock-down meant I couldn’t this year.

How did you first get into challenging yourself for charity?

About twenty years ago, I found myself on my own, three grown-up children had flown the nest. I was also preoccupied with my work. I was a social worker at the time and my job left me little time to spend on my fitness. I would spend hours commuting and consequently, I would snatch bags of chips or samosas as I drove.

But a piece of news caught my attention. A woman with leukaemia had run the London Marathon and several other notable sports events, all to raise money for Leukaemia research. I decided that if a woman so ill could do these, the least I could do was to get out of my car and get fitter!

Not long after, I saw an advert for a charity trek in Tanzania and I decided to use my holiday for that. I self-funded my challenge and raised as much money as I could for the NSPCC. I organised a ceilidh, sold cakes and plants and I think I raised about £2,000.

Since then, Anne hasn't stopped...

These projects take time and effort, but the trek had given me a taste for adventure. A few years later, I undertook the Great Wall of China. We trekked in some remote places and I formed strong friendships with the other trekkers, who I have kept in touch with to this day. I have also trekked in Peru and the Himalayas for children’s charities. I would return there tomorrow if I could!

Around 2005, I had to move to London, because my lovely youngest son was terminally ill. I last lived here in the ’70s. When I arrived, I was shocked at the number of homeless people. Buying a Big Issue one day, I saw an ad for a London-to-Paris bike ride in aid of The Big Issue. An irresistible challenge - raising money for a valuable cause, while doing something I had enjoyed as a teenager! I shall never forget the thrill of cycling as a team around the Arc de Triomphe, with French cars surrounding us.

Since then, I have cycled from London to Paris eight times for The Big Issue and twice more for cancer charities after my son died.

You’re clearly in good health now. How have you kept fit to conquer all these challenges?

I have determinedly curbed my liking for chocolate and cakes, as some years ago, I had a mild stroke, which prevented me from taking on further challenges until I had medical clearance. This took far too long, but the moment my consultant deemed me well enough, I rode across Myanmar (which was then Burma).

Since then, I have kept up my fitness, cycling in the High Atlas Mountains, Vietnam, India and Spain, plus several wild places in the UK.

Follow in Anne's tyre-tracks

In 2022, Anne will join us for our stunning new Cycle Moscow to St Petersburg challenge. She’ll see Russia for the first time, discover its so-called “three capitals” and the best of its serene, green countryside. We’re delighted to have Anne along for the ride, among many others cycling for all sorts of charities. Why not follow in their tyre-tracks and join the challenge?

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