When the country first locked down in March 2020 almost everyone found themselves cancelling summer plans. But for one local resident, the national lockdown and cancellation of international flights meant that plans for a charity bike ride across America had to be put on the back burner.
Antony Butcher, who lives in Ilkley, had been planning the ride since 2017 as part of his recovery from a mental health breakdown which was caused in part from a period of isolated working from home.
As large-scale vaccination programmes in both the UK and the United States help to drastically reduce the impact of Covid-19, Antony has said that he is “cautiously optimistic” that he will be able to set off in 2022. Whilst he will be keeping a close eye on how new variants interact with the vaccine, Antony has now started to plan for his ride, reaching out to contacts in America and resuming training, with the hope of setting off in April 2022.
Antony will spend 3 months cycling over 3500 miles across America, starting from New York and finishing in San Francisco. His journey will take him across 3 mountain ranges and through at least 16 states. During his trip he will be speaking with schools and community groups about his journey and the importance of being open about mental health, as well as raising money for the MS Society.
Antony says “After three years of planning it was really difficult to pull the plug on the ride last year, especially when it became clear that it wouldn’t be possible to do the ride this year either. The idea to cycle across America came in the midst of a depressive episode, and planning for the ride gave me something to help rebuild my life around. I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to set off next year - but even if I do, I don’t think it will feel like it’s actually going to happen until I reach San Francisco.
To help with his fundraising, Antony is developing plans to run a 24 hour marathon in Ilkley later this year - running 1.1 miles every hour for 24 hours, wearing an orange tutu.
Before announcing his plans to cycle across America, Antony had already cycled 2500 miles for charity, raising over £15,000, mostly for the MS Society, as his mum, who lives in a nursing home in Burley-in-Wharfedale, has lived with Multiple Sclerosis for over 30 years. In 2019, Antony raised another £5000 by running the London Marathon, completing the course in 6 hours 8 minutes after limping the second half when a training injury in his left knee returned before the 13 mile marker. Last year Antony and his wife Lizzie raised an additional £3000 for the MS Society by taking part in the virtual London Marathon, covering 26.2 miles from Burley in Wharfedale to the Bolton Abbey Estate and back, as well as hosting a series of virtual quizzes.
If you would like to contact Antony to learn more about the project, he is on Facebook at www.facebook.com/antonyacrossamerica or you can email firstname.lastname@example.org. He is keen to hear from anyone with contacts in America who might be interested in the ride.