Last year, James Allen took part in the first ever Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. We speak to James about why he enjoyed the event so much and why he’s taking part again this year.


1. 
How did you first find out about RideLondon-Surrey 100? 

My wife heard about it on United Response’s Facebook page, which she ‘likes’. She then told me about it and I became interested.


2. 
Why did the event appeal to you?

I did a lot of cycling when I was younger, especially in my teens, but it slipped when I went to university and then I never seemed to get back into it as I was busy with work and my kids. I thought it would be good to start cycling again and that a 100 mile cycle would be achievable with a bit of training. Last year it was also only a year after the Olympic Games and there was still that ‘Olympic effect’. The Olympic road race cycling course is pretty much the same as the RideLondon course so that appealed to me too.


3. How did you do prepare for the race?

I started doing small round trips, building up my distances slowly until it got to the last month before the event. For the last month I had a strict training regime! At first I was cycling 25 miles with the odd 3 mile cycle to warm down my muscles in the evening, then this grew to 50 miles and then 75 miles. Once I was completing the longer distances I knew I could take on the 100 mile RideLondon course.


4. 
What are your stand out memories from last year’s event?

Leith Hill! It’s the second biggest hill on the route, it is located in Surrey and an absolute monster! I tried a few times to climb it but my knees just gave way. One bloke in the crowd shouted out ‘Come on, you’re nearly there!’ and I thought to myself ‘I’ve been ‘nearly there’ three times now!’ But I eventually made it and once I conquered Leith Hill I started to believe that there was no obstacle on the course that could hold me back from finishing. The infamous Box Hill was easy by comparison!


5.
The course follows the same route as the London 2012 Olympic Road Race route. Did that serve as inspiration and did you ever pretend you were Bradley Wiggins whilst cycling?

No, although that’s more a recognition of my own ability! Although some fellow cyclists took the event very seriously and were looking to speed around the course my goal was simply to complete it. I guess I did feel a bit more like a pro-cyclist when I was speeding along when flying downhill.


6. 
What was it like cycling down the mall at the end? What were your emotions?

The last hill on the course is in Wimbledon but once you get over that you get a second wind, and in fact literally the wind was behind us, which really helps speed you along. The last mile the crowd were cheering me on and I didn't even notice any of the landmarks. It was quite a feeling, I had watched the Tour de France as a kid and it reminded me of the finish there. The best bit was seeing my wife and daughter at the finish line, who were cheering me on wildly. That moment will live with me forever.


7. 
What would your advice be to somebody thinking of doing the event for the first time?

If you’re thinking of doing it, do it! If you've never cycled any sizeable distance before then I’d say the earlier you start training the better. The first thing you notice is how sore you get; so I recommend that you invest in a good pair of cycling shorts. The London Marathon is iconic but RideLondon is the cyclist’s version and it will only get more popular.


8. Why did you take part for United Response?

My sister in law has a learning disability and lives at a United Response supported-living service in Kent. Over the last fifteen years she has been supported by various care providers but since she has been supported by United Response I have never seen her happier. The quality of her life has trebled. I therefore wanted to do something in return for Untied Response as it is a charity that doesn't get as much attention as some of the bigger ones.


9. How did you raise your sponsorship target of £700?

I created a Virgin Money Giving page and added the link to my Facebook page. I then went on a campaign to pester my friends and work colleagues! Reaching my sponsorship target wasn’t as onerous as I thought it would be, my friends and family in particular were very generous.


10. What tips would you give someone interested in signing up but unsure about whether they can raise the money?

It is a commitment; I worked hard to raise that amount of money. But once you’ve got the first hundred pounds in, it gets the ball rolling and it becomes easier. You become less worried about asking people for money and just get on with it.


11. 
Why do you want to take part in RideLondon again this year?

Because I want to beat my time from last year! In 2013 I completed the event in 7 ½ hours and this year I would ideally like to try and finish the course in 6 hours.


12. What are you looking forward to most about taking part for Untied Response?

Last year I was wearing a United Response t-shirt and so this year having a cycling jersey will be much better for my cycling technique. People in the crowd cheered my name last year and one person even shouted out ‘go on United Response’ which, when my energy was low, gave me a great boost. The fact that this year United Response has a cheering station along the course is fantastic.


Interview conducted by Mark Schueler, fundraising officer


This year United Response has places in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100. Take part for us and you will receive an exclusive cycling jersey!

Read more about RideLondon