Saturday 24 March 2018

Messages of kindness truly provide the perfect tonic

TEAM SPIRIT: Cyclists at the welcome sign in County Leitrim
TEAM SPIRIT: Cyclists at the welcome sign in County Leitrim

Breifne Earley

This week has been the first evidence of a race in sometime, although my competitors in this particular race weren't exactly expected. I hadn't started the week thinking I'd be competing against the wind, rain and lightening storms, but my own ability to locate a bathroom with barely a few minutes notice. Delhi Belly has been my biggest competitor this week, almost getting the better of me for two days, when it just wasn't safe to go out on the bike until the drugs took effect.

A while back after my crash in Hungary, once it became clear that I wasn't going to break the world record, I made the conscious decision to not get too worked up about the actual race I was competing in. At that point I was sitting in third place and was losing ground on my rivals.

Amazingly, due to a number of incidents involving taxis and visa trouble, my competitors have either been disqualified or been hammered in their progress which has left me almost 2,000km ahead of my nearest rival at the head of the race. It's also looking more and more probable by the passing weeks that I am the only person likely to actually finish this race and as such, the favourite to win it.

As I write this I'm on the east coast of India in the city of Nellore, but I hope to be almost in Calcutta by the time you read this, a distance of 1,500km away.

* * *

"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers" is a famous quote from Tennessee Williams' Pulitzer Prize winning play A Streetcar Named Desire which has never rung so true for me as it has over the last few months. The texts, tweets, comments and likes on social media have been an unbelievable source of energy and motivation over the last 11 weeks. But for me the kindness of strangers has been even more evident on the road, from Pierre in Belgium, to Eva in Novi Sad who met me and offered me a place to stay, food and a guided tour of the lovely Serbian city, Arvind who stopped on the mountain pass between Mangalore and Bangalore, and Chiara who gave me the run of her apartment in Bangalore, India.

This human kindness and support was equally evident during the Cycle Against Suicide at home when tragedy struck and Brenawn O'Connell lost his life in an accident while he endeavoured to protect the hundreds of people on bikes behind him.

I've been following the two-week event with a keen interest over the last few weeks, as an ambassador for the charity and a number of my friends have been taking part in it. I received a photograph on Twitter from one of those friends as the cycle passed into my home county of Leitrim. They stopped at the 'Fáilte go Contae Liatroma' sign and collectively made a massive thumbs up.

It was just the pick-me-up I needed.

  • @Breifneearley

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