My fitness challenge
How hard would it be to ride 107km every day for 107 days? Chris Hall decided to find out, all in the name of charity
The prospect of taking on an endurance challenge was nothing new to Chris Hall. He had already completed a gruelling ride across Romania, as well as a mind-numbing and equally physically tough 24-hour ride around Richmond Park. But late last year he took on a far more intimidating venture: to ride 107km per day for 107 consecutive days, raising money for children’s charity the Pace Centre, while holding down a full-time job.
“I actually changed jobs about 80 days into the challenge. I’d been working two jobs doing design consultancy and property management. It was a nine-to-five but realistically it was a nine until whenever it was done, which could be as late as 11pm,” says the 28-year-old.
Changing jobs gave Hall greater flexibility and a more enticing commute from his London home, taking in some scenic roads into Kent.
The difficultly of Hall’s task was not merely about the distance involved. He also had harsh winter weather to contend with, including a few days of riding through Storm Doris. The final 107km, on the 107th day, involved riding the gruelling Flanders sportive in Belgium. On certain days, Hall allowed himself to cover some of the riding on a turbo indoors.
“I rode about 15 per cent of the total distance inside, but I’d only resort to it if I was very sore and achy. This meant I could track my heart rate and training zones without pushing myself over the limit in the course of getting the distance done.”
To avoid falling short of the distance as the result of technical glitches such as GPS inconsistencies, Hall rode until his Garmin indicated 112km — allowing a 5km buffer. This meant his total ended up being closer to 13,000km than the scheduled 11,500km.
Naturally, Hall hit upon some unforeseeable problems along the way, including a worrying two-day illness halfway through. Just one more day feeling unwell would have put an end to his challenge, he admits. As it was, he spent nine hours suffering on a turbo-trainer, desperately struggling for the energy to rack up the required kilometres.
“The illness crept up on me from nowhere,” he says. “I woke up sweaty, achy and dizzy, and remember looking outside and seeing it was horrible [weather], but I just thought, I’m going to have to do this indoors — partly because I’ll be closer to a toilet.”
Hall was thankful for the support he received from friends and family: “A high point was when my friends organised a load of people to turn up in Regent’s Park at 5.30am one morning 70 days into the challenge. I started my ride and one bloke turned up, then another, then another. Then there were eight, then there were 20, then there were 40. I was speechless.”
That’s not to mention the generosity shown by members of the public along the way, even in unlikely places.
“One morning I struggled to get myself out of bed, which meant I had to ride 80km after work. This guy called Richie who I had never met before messaged me on Facebook asking if I wanted a wheel to sit on and a bit of company. He turned up with a flask of hot chocolate and a packet of sweets and said, ‘You tell me how fast we need to go and I’ll hold that pace.’ He was a complete stranger who I now consider a really good friend.”
On the final day of the challenge, as the day’s total approached 107km, Hall began to fear the prospect of an anticlimactic finish on a dual carriageway in the middle of Belgium. Thankfully the course turned off the busy road and into countryside, where Hall was able to reflect on his achievement.
“We stopped and I was completely overwhelmed; I burst into tears. A lot of it was thinking about the fact it was over for me: three and a half months of my life.”
His thoughts promptly turned to the children his challenge had set out to help.
“My time riding is still really just a pinprick compared to what some of the kids have to deal with. I kind of felt sad, as I knew that I could go back to a normal life but those at Pace can’t. That’s where all the emotions came in.”
The next morning, having spent several hours every day for the past 107 days riding, Hall was free from any obligation to ride. Surely he treated himself?
“I got up early in the morning and just thought I’d go for a little spin, really casual, but it was really cold and I was freezing. I just thought, do you know what, I don’t need to do this. It was so refreshing: I could just stop and not have to worry.”
Hall’s challenge raised funds and awareness for Pace Centre kids