FEATURE: Soham’s Callum Fairhurst reflects on near-18,000 mile round the world cycle ride
Callum Fairhurst freely admits that with a few hundred miles of his round-the-world fundraising cycle still to go, his body was starting to wear down.
And he can be forgiven for a little weariness, given that he had covered well over 17,000 miles, in an epic journey that had taken him across continents, for what he describes as “five per cent of my life”.
The Soham teenager, now 19, completed his well-publicised journey around the world for the foundation he founded memory of his brother Liam, who died from cancer in 2009 aged 14.
Armed with little more than a mobile phone, some basic camping gear and of course his bicycle, he was set off by Prime Minister David Cameron at 10 Downing Street on July 10, 2015 and was greeted by his parents at Times Square, New York on April 8, a full 17,342 miles and nine months later.
It has now been several weeks since Callum’s return, and when asked about his thoughts on the whole experience, and what he has learned from it, he cringes at the thought of speaking in the usual clichés.
He said: “It has definitely changed me. I don’t know how if I’m being honest.
“It has just been such an experience. Anyone who has travelled knows you come back a different person. Especially travelling in this unique way has opened my eyes in a different way.
“It sounds like a cliché, but the happiness people have when they have next to nothing stood out.
“It makes you think that we need to appreciate what we have got and should be pleased to be alive and that we are here. There are many people that would wish to have the lifestyle and the opportunities we have. It has definitely made me grateful and it’s the number one thing to have come out of it.
“It has also made me realise just how wonderful this world is.”
And although he is still a teenager, his maturity and articulation means he would pass for someone much older.
Callum has seen more of the world in a year that many will see in a lifetime.
Starting in England, his next location was Australia, and the countries that followed included Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, India, Greece, Italy, France, Spain and the east and west coasts of the USA.
In India he was joined by Rob Garnham, co-founder of Corkers Crisps, based near Ely, who cycled with Callum for that leg of the journey.
Some countries planned to be on the trip, had to be avoided, like Burma, because of advice from his insurers and the Foreign Office about safety.
The thought of doing 100 or more miles a day continuously for a year is alone enough to make some people feel tired, so how did he do it?
“Eddie Izzard, who ran 27 marathons in 27 days, has said that after the sixth marathon it’s normal for your body and people laughed, but it is actually true. After the first 1,000 miles on the bike it became normal for my body.
“But I did it because it was an adventure and a journey. It was about seeing people, not just covering thousands of miles.
“I started off thinking about the stats and the figures and in the first month I started to realise it was nothing to do with that. It is about the journey and the people you meet and places you see, those are things you remember.”
Callum said that the generosity and support he received all along the route was incredible, and remembers in many Asian countries how people would offer bottles of water or try to help fix his bike if there was a problem.
And the journey was not without its problems. His chain snapped five or six times, and in Cambodia his right hand stopped working, and as time ticked away while he was recovering in Phnom Penh, the nation’s capital, he realised he was going to have to cancel his Vietnam leg of the journey.
And right at the start, after being set off on his way by David Cameron, he realised he had forgotten his phone some miles into his opening stretch, so he had to cycle back and get it off his mum.
And as he sat on his saddle for the first time, which had been set up perfectly for his leg length, it suddenly slid right down, and he was never able to get the setting quite right for the whole journey.
And punctures, the bane of many a cyclist, ironically only became an issue on the highways of the USA, with Callum relatively untroubled on the less well-maintained roads of some Asian countries.
His bike, a Trek 920 tourer, which he said performed admirably for the trip, is to be sent over to the USA to go on display.
“Overall it was an amazing bike. I didn’t look after my chain - I had five or six snap which is just too many”, said Callum.
As well as being tired, Callum said he was nervous of getting of the bike and resuming a ‘normal’ life.
“The spontaneity of not knowing what you would see, who you would meet or what you would eat that evening was coming to an end. That was my normal.
“It was crazy knowing I didn’t have to wake up every morning and get on my bike for ‘x’ amount of miles.
“By the last week my body was really worn down. The moment I realised I had done it, I couldn’t believe it was coming to an end.”
He said there was no euphoria in those final miles, more a feeling of relief.
Callum had a fixed point he had to finish his trip, as he had a job in London to start. He is now “99 per cent certain” he will start a course in September at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, studying politics and international development.
Callum promised his brother before he died that he would “lead a brilliant life and try to help others while doing it.”
His trip has brought in about £25,000 for the Liam Fairhurst Foundation, which helps young people affected by cancer and other serious illnesses.
But this is just the start for Callum.
He said: “This has just ticked one box. There’s many that haven’t been ticked. I have caught the bug for adventure and further challenges and adventures - we will just have to see. I’ve got some plans for some exciting challenges coming up.”
To find out more about the Liam Fairhurst Foundation and how to donate to it, visit www.liamfairhurstfounda tion.com/