Break­ing the cy­cle


Style Magazine - - Feature - BY JES­SICA KRAMER

W‘‘ The ca­ma­raderie and sup­port be­tween all the rid­ers was ex­cep­tional - it was so much more than we ever imag­ined it would be and ev­ery­thing that we had hoped for.” KEELY MANCINI

hile many a per­son may say they’d go to the ends of the earth for their friends, would you cy­cle over 400km with them?

It sounds like an amaz­ing feat, yet this is ex­actly what mums Keely Mancini and Re­becca East were in­spired to do last De­cem­ber.

“We at­tended a fundraiser last De­cem­ber out at Me­an­darra [about three hours west of Toowoomba] for the Heart of Aus­tralia,” Keely ex­plains.

“We lis­tened to Dr Rolf Gomes speak and were in­spired by his pas­sion and de­ter­mi­na­tion to get the Heart Bus on the road.

“Things he said just res­onated with us – we both have friends and fam­ily liv­ing in the coun­try and the ser­vice of the Heart Bus made so much sense.”

The five-hour drive home found these two women ex­cit­edly mak­ing plans for a mas­sive cy­cling jour­ney to raise funds for heart health in ru­ral ar­eas.

Late Au­gust found over 30 women ready to spend three days rid­ing 415km from Bris­bane to Me­an­darra, in­clud­ing a climb of over 3000 me­tres over the Range. But why cy­cling? “We love it, and we also wanted to fo­cus on our com­mu­nity,” Keely says.

“Over the years many women have com­mented to both of us at dif­fer­ent times how great it is that we par­tic­i­pate in races and do all of this train­ing and phys­i­cal ac­tiv­ity, so we wanted to be able to bring these things to­gether.

“Over the years we have formed some great friend­ships so, as well as the rac­ing as­pect, there is a very strong so­cial as­pect for both of us with cy­cling.”

Keely and Bec have as much a sport-re­lated back­ground to their friend­ship as they do a fam­ily-re­lated one.

“We met in 2010 at our lo­cal gym, where we were both train­ing for a marathon in dif­fer­ent cities,” Keely re­calls.

“We started run­ning to­gether with another group of marathon run­ners.

“Run­ning drew us to­gether but we also have chil­dren of the same age and our youngest at­tended the same kindy, so we started see­ing each other more reg­u­larly.”

Sadly, good fam­ily friends of Keely and Bec lost a mate, Graeme Bri­dle, sud­denly to un­ex­pected heart fail­ure last year.

To sup­port their griev­ing and shocked friends, the mums went out to the ru­ral prop­erty of Uralla in Me­an­darra, and at­tended the fundraiser event held in mem­ory of Graeme.

It was here the ladies learnt that if Graeme had been able to get a check-up, his heart con­di­tion would have been found and he may still have been here to­day.

And so, Girls Got Heart was born – and from that, the cy­cling event, the Heart of Uralla.

“When we ar­rived home from Me­an­darra last De­cem­ber, the first peo­ple we spoke to were our hus­bands,” Keely re­mem­bers.

“We have had a few crazy ideas in the past which they roll their eyes at, but this time they both in­stantly thought the ride was a good idea.”

It was this sup­port that gave Keely and Bec the mo­ti­va­tion they needed to keep go­ing with the plan.

“Through­out the last eight months they have had to pick up the pieces at home with the kids and ev­ery­thing else, as we have worked to pull it all to­gether,” Keely says.

Keely’s hus­band An­drew orig­i­nally comes from Lon­greach, so had a very real

un­der­stand­ing of life in the coun­try and how hard it can be to get to health spe­cial­ists.

“With fam­ily still liv­ing in ru­ral Queens­land, there is a very in­vested in­ter­est in Girls Got Heart, and we have had huge sup­port from the Lon­greach com­mu­nity.”

As well as aim­ing to raise $55,000 for heart health in ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties, Bec and Keely wanted to show other ladies that it was pos­si­ble to achieve the cy­cling goal by fol­low­ing a sim­ple but con­sis­tent train­ing pro­gram and by hav­ing the sup­port of a group.

“This is one rea­son why we chose to be a women-only event,” Keely says.

“Women can of­ten put them­selves last and feel a sense of guilt when tak­ing up too much time for them­selves, [but] fo­cus­ing on a good cause and rais­ing money for some­thing so im­por­tant makes it eas­ier.”

Not only did ev­ery one of the rid­ers fin­ish, but Girls Got Heart has been able to raise $119,000 for heart health.

“There are so many sto­ries and feel good mo­ments that it’s hard to pick, but a cou­ple of stand­outs would be see­ing one of the girls who had not rid­den fur­ther than 40kms be­fore March this year climb the Range, still smil­ing like she had done through ev­ery train­ing ses­sion with the most pos­i­tive at­ti­tude,” Keely says.

“Another won­der­ful part of the ride was to see one of the girls who was ini­tially con­cerned about the chal­lenges of a three-day event re­lax more and more each kilo­me­tre trav­elled.

“She was as strong as an ox with an at­ti­tude to match, and it was great to see how far she had come in train­ing, and how much she en­joyed it.”

There would be a mil­lion more sto­ries to tell, but over­all Keely and Bec are over the moon.

“The ca­ma­raderie and sup­port be­tween all the rid­ers was ex­cep­tional – it was so much more than we ever imag­ined it would be and ev­ery­thing that we had hoped for.”

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