After attending a routine eye test in August 2010, Mike Clark’s brother, Paul, received the shocking diagnosis of a brain aneurysm which, if it ruptured, would cause severe damage to his brain. He collapsed with a splitting headache just two months later and was quickly admitted to hospital, but he did not recover and tragically died after 10 days.
The dignity and courage that Paul showed in his final days inspired Mike to honour his memory by taking on a series of long-distance cycling challenges for Headway, in order to help others who are affected by devastating brain injuries.
The first challenge was to cycle all the way from Land’s End to John O’Groats in 2011 alongside his younger brother Tony and close friend Brian, with their dear friend Paul driving a van along the route to support the intrepid team.
They raised an incredible amount, with over £17,000 directed to Headway’s Emergency Fund.
“When we took on the challenge in 2011, it coincided with the launch of the Headway Emergency Fund, which immediately struck a chord,” said Mike.
“I work in London, so when Paul was in hospital I was fortunate to be close and also to have very supportive employers who allowed me to finish work early and visit him every day.
“I didn’t have to worry about the cost of travel or potential overnight stays to be close to him but I know that things could have been very different.
Being able to help others directly, if only to ease one’s worry at a very traumatic time, has always been important to me.
As a keen cyclist whose regular weekend rides clock in at over 40 miles, Mike took on another charity challenge in 2017’s RideLondon 100, before tackling the 156km New Forest Sportive in 2021.
With his incredible fundraising efforts and the dedication of his supporters, Mike has now raised more than £32,000 for Headway across the three challenges. This staggering amount directly supports hundreds of families through the Headway Emergency Fund, helping them to cope financially in the immediate aftermath of brain injury.
He said: “I had always hoped to do something ‘big’ this year to mark 10 years since the Land’s End to John O’Groats ride, but the pandemic and a cycling accident in 2020 in which I fractured my pelvis put paid to that. I should add that I was wearing a helmet when I had my accident and I have no doubt that my head was well protected as there must have been impact.
“The New Forest Sportive was the perfect opportunity - it’s not too far from my home in Woking, Surrey and represented by far the longest ride since my accident. But with a total incline of 3,600 feet, if anyone claims that the New Forest is flat, they’re sadly mistaken!
“I had hoped to do well with my fundraising as I have extremely supportive family, friends and colleagues, but to get close to £8,500 for a single day ride was staggering.
“I’m fortunate to work for a very philanthropic organisation who made a large donation through their charitable foundation, as well as I and a number of colleagues having Give As You Earn accounts through which my employer double-matches our contributions.
“I feel proud, emotional and eternally grateful to have completed the challenges and to have raised such a large amount for a cause that means a lot to me personally.
“To others who might be thinking of taking on a challenge for Headway I’d say ‘just do it!’
“Find something you enjoy and are passionate about, and tell people about it early. Not only does this allow you to raise more funds, but it also commits you so there’s no turning back!
Whatever you do, make sure you prepare and train properly for it and, most importantly, enjoy it.
If you’ve been inspired by Mike's story and would like to take on a challenge of your own, we’d love to welcome you to Team Headway!
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