Riding ahead of expectations: Stephen's story

StephenHave you done the MS Gong Ride before?
Two years ago I trained to do the Gong Ride, but I had some extensions of already existing MS attacks, so I was encouraged by my neurologist not to do the full 82 kilometres, so I did the start, the middle and the end. I think I did around 22 kms of the Gong Ride back then.

What was your goal for this year’s Virtual Gong Ride?
This year, my goal was to ride 82 kilometres, and I managed 175.

What did you love about the virtual event?
The fact that it was on my own terms. I could ride when I wanted, wearing what I wanted, when I wanted. I didn’t have to try and compete with anyone. When you see other people on the Gong Ride course, you’re like, “wow they’re flying through, look how fit they are!” and stuff like that. 

Sometimes there’s this pressure when you’re taking part in a cycle with so many people that you have to have full on lycra or that you have to have the latest attire to be considered a cyclist. People compare bikes and stuff like that. This time, the pressure was completely off – I could do how much I wanted, wearing what I wanted, where I wanted. 

What did you miss about the traditional Gong Ride?
I did miss the excitement of the crowd and the people and the cheering – there’s this great atmosphere. At the Gong Ride start, there’s just so many people. They’re excited and pumped and hi-fiving you and it’s the same at the end - there’s all these people there cheering, waving you on and encouraging you. You end up at Wollongong beach and there’s food and music, it’s like a carnival. 

What are you most proud of from your participation in the Virtual Gong Ride?
I learnt a lot about myself including that I can push myself further. Forcing myself to go on these rides when I didn’t really feel I had the energy and strength and with really strong days of sun and then wind and rain and hail and I just continued riding and getting saturated. When I saw the rain was clearing, I’d jump on the bike to get more kilometres because I was kind of craving – I wanted to get as many kilometres as I could. I’m pretty sure if the weather had been better and I didn’t have all that rain in the last week, I would’ve gone over 200 kilometres. 

There were days I didn’t have the energy, motivation or strength to ride, but I’d think of everyone’s donations and reading the comments on my page and I didn’t want to let anyone or myself down. So, I’d make myself go for a ride, and I felt much better for doing that.

Any last thoughts?
I feel very blessed to be working alongside everyone at MSL and I would like to thank them for the amazing job they do, for their hard work and dedication (especially this year of all years), to ensure people with MS don’t feel alone.

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