Rich’s Fundraising Story
“Age is but a number”
If I had a pound for every time someone turned to me and asked if I was having a mid-life crisis, I would be a very wealthy man. The truth is though that for all of my adult life I have dedicated myself to the service of others. I am a verteran of the British Army and for the past 22 years have served all over the world in some very nice places, but more often than not, in some not so very nice places. I also served for three years as a Motorcycle Display Rider in the Royal Signals White Helmets. Now in semi-retirement, and after having experienced a mental breakdown during the transition to civilian life, I now understand that you cannot live a healthy life without being kind to yourself, putting your needs first sometimes, and being true to your intrinsic values and beliefs. It is okay to think differently. In fact it’s completely natural.
All my life I have lived fast. I work hard, and I play harder. It’s just how I’m naturally designed. It has a label these days that ‘they’ call ADHD, but I think this title does a huge disservice to the millions of people like me who just think a little bit differently to the accepted normalities of society. The truth is though that when I’m on a bike I feel perfectly attuned to the situation and time slows down. I am able to process information more accurately and life doesn’t feel like I’m wading through treacle with 20kg weights tied to my ankle.
Most people visit their nearest car dealership when they leave the armed forces after a full career and, using their pension lump sum, buy the latest family SUV that they’ve lusted after. I’m quite happy with my 11 year old Ford SMax though. Instead I’m going chasing my life’s ambition… I’m going to be true to myself and I’m not going to feel guilty about doing so… I’m embracing who I am, staying firmly On-Track and pursuing my life’s ambition: To compete around the infamous Snaefell Mountain Course on the Isle of Man.
So what am I planning to do?
Me in 5 Questions...
What has been my biggest achievement so far?
Being awarded a Queens’ Commendation on the New Years Honours list in 2018 for my services to the community.
What makes you angry?
Manipulative people who limit the beliefs of others based on their own self image, or simply because they see them as a threat.
How would you describe yourself to a stranger?
I have strong uncompromising ethical values which I will not apologize for. I do something right or I don’t do it at all.
What is you favourite food and drink?
Fish & Chips and a nice mug of (grade 6) Yorkshire Tea
What is you ambition in life?
I’d like to think the same as every other parent… See my children grow into calm, caring and confident adults who have the courage to carve their own path in life, rather than follow blindly down the one that society’s expectations lays before them.
So what has been covered so far? Bikes… Speed… The White Helmets…. Track riding. Right then… !
Ever since I sat and watched Barry Sheen racing 500GPs on BBC2 on a Sunday afternoon, I’ve wanted to race bikes. For 20 years though I have allowed excuse after excuse to conveniently get in the way, most of which have often come from listening to other people and allowing them to shape my way of thinking and at times, make me feel guilty for even wanting to. The twenty years before that was largely the same, although being largely dependent on family during these years, I was less able to just do it anyway. Well aged 42 I now am, and I’ve had my CBR1000RR professionally prepared and transformed into a race bike for the occasion!
Being motorcyclists I would hope, or at least like to think, that you will have heard of the late great Geoff Duke OBE. His 8 TT wins riding for Norton are what he is most remembered for, however for me, the idiom of Geoff Duke began long before he first lifted a silver lady above his head. You see he was the Team Sergeant of the White Helmets Motorcycle Display Team during his military service. After leaving school I didn’t have a clue what I wanted to do so I did what all 18 year old waifs and strays did back then… I went to the Army Careers Office. I sat a test to see what roles I was best suited to and… It didn’t help make the decision. I genuinely didn’t have a foggiest. Then in a brochure I was flicking through, I noticed a picture of a serviceman jumping an old Triumph through fire, and another of six bikes riding in a row, with tens of blokes all stood on one another’s shoulders forming a pyramid. That got my attention. 3 years later, cold wet and knackered, SSgt Paul Bowie called out “Number 14 – Pass”, and shortly after I joined Geoff Duke in earning the once coveted White Helmet and joining the World Premier Motorcycle Display Team.
In 2023, the late Geoff Duke would have turned 100 years old. Incidentally it is also the centenary of the Manx GP. The challenge I have set myself is to earn the respective licences and experience which will allow me to get a tap of a start marshall and compete at the Snaefell Mountain Course that year in memory of the man who has been so inspirational to me, achieving a life’s ambition that I had previously resigned to a pipe dream previously. My challenge is completely self funded and through my 100 Club, I aim to raise awareness of Mental Health among the Motorcycle Racing Community, and being a qualified Mental Health First Aider, Advisor and Guidance Counsellor, and Life Coach; I hope to instigate on e or two conversations which might otherwise never have happened. And if what I am doing can help change just one person’s life for the better – well then that’s winning right there!
This year I am racing with an Intermediate novice licence with No Limits Racing, East Midlands Racing Association, and Tonfanau Road Races. In order to achieve my goal, first and foremost I need to obtain a National Racing Licence. This will need me to complete the following:
- Appear in the results over ten different race weekends, at three different circuits. This will make me eligible to apply for a Clubman licence.
- Once a Clubman racer, I then have to once again appear in the results over ten separate race weekends, at three different circuits; but this time I have to finish within 92.5% of the winners average speed in my class. Then and only then can I apply for a national licence.
- To be eligible to apply for the 2023 Manx GP, I have to be a National Licence holder by August 2022!
20 races (minimum) at 3 circuits (minimum), and prove to the relevant governing bodies that I’m A. Not mad, and B. Not a risk!!!
Why mental health?
My last role in the Army was as a Regimental Welfare Officer, where, for three years, I was responsible for the safeguarding and welfare of circa 650 soldiers and officers and the families of those who were married and accompanied by dependants. It was a highly demanding role which unfortunately saw me working in the realms of suicide prevention, safeguarding, and the provision of mental health support all to frequently. This placed a huge burnen not only on my own internal life, but also on my friends and family too. Over time I became sullen and withdrawn, I became disinterested in things that once used to excite me, and having only two people in my team who I could delegate tasks to, I began to feel overwhelmed and ultimately suffered a breakdown. Two years later and quite a lot of help; I have been diagnosed with a number of conditions including ‘a severe depressive episode’ for which – after 22 years and 5 months service – I have been medically discharged for.
I have existed in the space that the Mental Health Motorbike team voluntarily put themselves in. It is a critical, life changing and, unfortunately more often that we’d like it to be, a life saving task. But who’s there to care for the carer? I have chosen Mental Health Motorcycle for the following three reasons – all of which are based on my own personal experiences:
- Whenever I have been in a bad mind state I’ve chosen to get away from it all – and what better way than putting your lid on and going for a ride. The problem with that though is that we are riding while our emotional centre is making our decisions for us. That isn’t good at all.
- Our community is very much like the armed forces in that while I can belittle someone in the RAF or NAVY, as they can me. Woe betide a civilian who picks on a Matelow in my presence. We are one. Bikers we all tend to think alike and understand one another. Power Rangers like myself will laugh at HOG riders, who in turn laugh at the GS crew in their ‘polite biker’ vests. When it comes to it though each ‘sub species’ would support one another and that’s what MHM intends to do.
- It’s needed! Individuals are more inclined to engage in discussing sensitive topics with acquaintances than they are friends, and the success of that discussion largely depends on rapport being built early. Mental Health Motorbike facilities that.
Why Support Us?
The Mental Health Motorbike exists to create meaningful opportunities so that together we grow the wellbeing of the motorbike community. Our ultimate aim is to reduce the suicide rates amongst bikers in the UK.
Over the next 12-18 months we aim to train a bikers from across the UK in Mental Health First Aid and create the countries first free dedicated mental health support network for bikers of all ages, gender and backgrounds.
All money raised will go into a bursary fund to pay for those dealing with financial hardship wanting to go through the MHFA training and become part of the biker support network. We aim to remove barriers to providing access to the training.
Having the network in place will save lives by providing vital support those in crisis.