On Wednesday 12th September 2007, our parents, Chris and Elisabeth Mack began a 4-day, 450-kilometre cycle from London to Paris. The challenge was taken in memory of our brother, Gregory Highwood-Mack, and all the money raised has gone to supporting CRY.
Greg collapsed at work when his heart suddenly stopped on 10th March 2006. After nine days in intensive care at the William Harvey Hospital in Ashford, Kent, surrounded by the people who loved him and whom he loved, Greg slipped away.
During the 9 days in hospital it was discovered that Greg had a heart condition referred to as Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy – a condition that remained undetected throughout his life.
We now realise just how important cardiac screening is and it’s our parents hope that the money they have raised will increase awareness and encourage cardiac screening in young people.
When our mum originally suggested registering for the cycle, it was more in jest than a serious proposal.
However, as she thought more about it, the more the idea of cycling from London to Paris for CRY appealed to her.
There were many factors that motivated our parents to take on this challenge. Our mum was born in Chartres, France and as a result French culture has always been a big part of our family’s lives. This combined with Greg’s love of the outdoors, his passion for cycling and his sense of adventure confirmed that this challenge would be the perfect way to honour him and his life. And it was a chance to get fit and raise money for CRY.
A large part of their motivation for taking on this challenge was to honour Greg. Perhaps they had secretly hoped that the physical pain involved in the challenge would reduce the heartache felt since losing Greg.
It was indeed both an emotional and physical challenge – neither having cycled in years! They purchased new bikes and then began an intensive 12-week training programme.
Several times each week they could be found powering up the Downs and along Salton’s Way towards West Wittering in West Sussex, building up stamina and endurance for the challenge.
They spent the final two weeks of training on holiday, preparing for the French terrain, cycling in the hills of Provence battling high temperatures and strong “Mistral” winds.
On the 12th September they set off for London to begin their 4-day, 450 km journey. On day one, leaving Greenwich, along with 101 other riders, they covered 135 km, making their way through the fields and villages and over the many exhausting hills of Kent towards Dover.
Early the following morning, they set off from Calais for Abbeville, taking in the beauty of the rural landscapes; and contrary to popular belief Northern France is not flat!
Day 3 was a slightly shorter ride to Beauvais and it was during this stretch of the journey that we – Stephanie, Gabrielle, Camille and Greg’s fiancée, Laura – came to offer emotional and motivational support.
Finally, on the morning of 15th September, our mum and dad began their final cycle into Paris.
All 103 cyclists peddled around the Arc de Triomphe, and along the Champs Elysees to finish at the base of Eiffel Tower where family, friends and supporters met them with huge applause and admiration.
When asked about the experience, our mum said: “Looking back on these past four days, I realise that the physical pain could never match the heartache of losing my Greg.”
But they both feel the experience was a positive one. Greg always used to say “just keep swimming” when faced with difficult times, and this journey has proven that with love and determination one can survive and find a way through.
This ‘epic’ adventure has raised well above our parents original target of £8,000. At present they have helped to raise almost £16,000 for Greg’s memorial fund at CRY.
This money will be added to the £5,000+ raised by the skydive for Greg, completed by Greg’s sisters, fiancée and friends; and the cycle completed by Greg’s work colleague, Matt Spain.
Stephanie, Gabrielle and Camille Mack & Laura Manni.