I’m preparing for my second 24hr time trial, which takes place on 21st – 22nd July 2018, and its making me think about how I found myself competing in such a challenging sporting event. Those who have met within the last 5 years, will undoubtedly see me as a cyclist, but it’s not something I’ve grown up with, it’s something that I’ve grown into.
Although I have always liked being outdoors and exploring, I wasn’t a particularly ‘sporty’ child. I was actually the lad who’d always get picked last for playground games of football, and to be honest, I wouldn’t have picked me first either! The complexity of football proved to be too much of a challenge for me. I always had difficulty remembering who was on what team and which way I was supposed to be shooting, so when you add trying to stay upright, remembering complicated rules and all of the skills and techniques that I needed, it just resulted in overload!
20 years ago, at 14 years old, I learned that I am Dyslexic and that this is the reason why I found some tasks much more taxing than my peers (I found out much later that my particular SpLD has much more in common with Dyspraxia, which explains my schoolboy football prowess!) Learning this about myself, developing strategies to cope and engaging with the support that I received at school and at home led me to become interested in how we learn and differences in the ways people achieve and succeed. This ultimately led to me training to teach and pursuing a career in SEN and SEBD teaching. A-Levels and a degree course were significantly challenging and at times frustrating, but ultimately achievable with a lot of determination. Teaching at a Pupil Referral Unit was a great fit for me as I got to concentrate on helping those who struggled to fit into the system for various reasons, which gave me a lot of job satisfaction. The education system is just that; a system: a machine that processes learners in order to produce qualifications. Issues arise with this when the components, or the materials don’t fit the original specification, for example if something is of a different shape, size, density etc. maybe these are the materials that need to be worked by hand…
Being of an irregular shape and size as a teacher, I always felt that the system should be developed further so that it can process everything, not just the regular. In short, I found that it doesn’t (well, not consistently anyway!). I had a few years of success and a few years of having my edges smoothed off to make me fit the system. Ultimately, my mental health suffered and I had a career change.
So, getting back to the cycling bit…
Riding my bike, along with other outdoors activities, has done wonders for my co-ordination, given me the space and time I need to organise my head and helped me to keep going when my mental health is suffering. Riding the 24 is a positive expression of what it has taken me to get through school with SpLD and to live with depression. I can compete in a discipline like this because of the experiences i have had: both positive and negative.
I appreciate all of the support i have received from my family and friends
I am grateful for all of the professionals who have helped me, both at school and with my mental health.
I don’t resent those who called me lazy, clumsy or told me to ‘pull myself together’
All of these experiences brought me to this point and without them, I might have ended up doing something ordinary!