Ken MacEwen is taking on a challenging 3,000km solo bike ride to raise money for Cancer Research UK.
The 68-year-old retired PE teacher and former National Fitness Coach for the Scottish Rugby Union plans to cycle the cross-Europe route, from Gibraltar to Glasgow, in just 30 days.
Ken, who is a cancer survivor himself, will be riding alone after his friend Gordon “Hendo” Henderson died suddenly in April (2018).
The challenge, Between a Rock and a Hard Place, will take place in May 2019.
Ken, of Lenzie, East Dunbartonshire, said: “Hendo and I had planned to do a big challenge together for charity and I came up with the idea of cycling 3,000km from Gibraltar, where I lived as a child, to our homes in Glasgow.
“Very sadly, my great, dear friend, who was very fit, died suddenly earlier this year.
“However, I am still determined to complete the ride. I have lost numerous close friends to various cancers and I want to raise a considerable amount of money for Cancer Research UK.”
The charity challenge
Ken explains the title of the self-created charity challenge. He said: “The start is the Rock of Gibraltar and the finish, Glasgow, was historically renowned as place of hard men. It’s not like that now but it will be a very hard cycle for me to reach my home city.”
Leaving Gibraltar on May 1 Ken will ride north through the length of Spain and France.
He will face a steady climb towards the Extremadura region of western Spain and then the arduous mountains of Northern Spain.
From there, Ken will ride the west coast of France to reach Roscoff in Brittany before taking a ferry to Plymouth on the south coast of England. He will continue his charity ride north to finally reach Scotland.
Ken’s ride will be unsupported, which means he will carry all his own kit with him. He hopes to make use of hostels and guest houses each night.
He will be joined by a couple of people during the ride, including his son and daughter-in-law.
Six-month training plan
Ken, who is married with two grown-up children and two grandchildren. is a veteran of many endurance races, including an Ironman, six Half Ironmans and two marathons.
However, he knows he will need to put in many months of training to finish the challenge.
He said: “I enjoy cycling and while riding 100km in a day is fairly comfortably achievable I will need to ride this distance day after day – and for a month.
“It will be a big challenge, especially as I have not done something like this before for such a long and sustained period.
“The weather is likely to be unpredictable, too, especially in the mountainous sections and when I reach the UK.”
Ken said he is focusing on building up his mileage with back-to-back rides and also doing strength work in the gym.
He said: “Winter training in Scotland is never easy so I do a mix of rides when the weather allows and indoor training on a turbo trainer.
“I am not getting any younger and I know I will have to work hard to be fit enough to complete this challenge.
“I want to raise as much money as possible for Cancer Research UK and also in memory of my friend Hendo.”
Ken is hoping to raise around £30,000 for life-saving research to help more men, women and children in Glasgow and across the UK survive cancer
Ken, fitness and over 50
When Ken reached his early fifties, he realised, like many men do, that he was putting on weight because he was not exercising as much as he used to. He says: “I was lacking a challenge in my life, too. I hadn’t really done anything competitive or physically challenging since my late thirties.
“I was sat at a rugby club dinner around 2004 or 2005 and with Hendo, who was the same as me, and we decided to get fit again and train for a triathlon.
“We signed up for the Stirling Try a Triathlon and this gave us a bit of a mental boost. We both soon started to feel the benefits of being active again.
“It was great being ‘a couple of daft laddies’ again. We both lost weight, although I found it difficult to lose muscle from lifting weights with the players I was working with at Murrayfield. My legs just sank in the pool!”
Since then Ken has been a keen sportsman again. He says: “I enjoy the feeling of being physically competent and having a new physical challenge in my life.”
Ken’s typical week of fitness
A typical week: Swim x 2, Run x 2, Cycle x 3 or 4, Gym x 2; Spanish conversational class x 1; “Last of Summer Wine” coffee group with pals (all retired); local rugby club – watch game; look after two grandchildren a day each week (challenging!)
He says: “Now that I have found a decent level of fitness in my late 60s, I am reluctant to stop, but I am realistic about the ageing process and that I will naturally slow down.”
Over 50: Ken’s highs and lows
- Completing Ironman Austria in 12 Hours 14mins.
- Beating 26 mins for a 10 Mile Cycle TT (25.51)
- Becoming a grandparent
- Watching my daughter and son thrive in their careers and family lives.
- The biggest loss has been Hendo. It has been a huge loss to everyone who knew him.
- I have also had to deal with my various injuries and occasional Ill-health.
Ken’s fitness tips
- You are never too old to find a new challenge in life.
- Choose an activity or activities that complement your personality and have a go.
- We are all different and have different interests and time constraints – but if you really want to achieve something, you can.