HIGH5 Stories: Steve Hopkins

While sport brings us all plenty of #HIGH5moments, we know that the journey to get there can be challenging, but that’s what makes it great, right?!

In the last few weeks we’ve been showcasing real people’s stories behind their #HIGH5moment – the highs, the lows, the little things that make that HIGH5 worth it. Here’s Steve’s moving story where he tells us what pushed him to complete 979 miles in nine days.

Steve Hopkins

My HIGH5 Moment:

Having sadly lost my mother to a short battle with cancer in January last year, completing the 980 miles of LEJOG, powered by HIGH5 in September, and raising over £4,500 for charity went some way to help the healing process 👍🚴‍♂️ Crossing the finish line was my #HIGH5Moment. 

The story behind my HIGH5 moment:

Basically, my cycling experience started in February 2016, in an attempt to keep the middle aged spread at bay! I hadn’t been on a road bike since my early teens, which, at 44, feels many moons ago.

I joined a local cycling club, Wellingborough Cycles, which was great as they had different groups with varying abilities. My first group ride was 19 miles and I averaged 13mph and it was sooo hard!

However, one guy in particular really helped. He had lost somewhere in the regions on 19 stone (!) in just over 18 months cycling, so if ever I needed a shot in the arm to get out when the weather was not so great, he was it.

The expensive bike followed shortly after, plus the ever growing wardrobe of cycling kit, much to the amusement of my two daughters and friends (Lycra wasn’t really my style!).

Soon after that, the weather started to get better and the enjoyment and distances I could ride increased massively. I booked into my first sportive, the Tour of Cambridgeshire at 80 miles long, which after lots of cramp and tears, I managed to finish. Thanks to the HIGH5 gels and drinks I finished in one piece. This was the first time I had bothered with gels, the learning curve worked out great and this was the first time I had ever ridden over 50 miles!

Sadly, around the same time as my new achievement we received the heartbreaking news that my mother had a very advanced bone cancer, with an undetermined time left with us.

“Within the week of finding out about mum, I had signed up for 979 miles in nine days… You can imagine my mum’s response when I told her!”

I’m holding back the tears now reliving it all. As you can imagine, this devastated the family. Now I’ve always been one for a challenge, having completed two London Marathons over the years for other people’s causes raising money for various charities, but somehow this time I needed to something extraordinary, this was my mum after all.

So somehow within the week of finding out about mum, I had signed up for the Deloitte Lands End to John O’Groats ride, 979 miles in nine days, one of the world’s toughest cycling challenges, with more climbing than twice the height of Everest(!) the following September. You can imagine my mum’s response when I told her.. .you silly sod !! (Or words to that effect!).

Cycling then began to take over, the distances increased, the hill climbing training increased, and I even had to ride over the winter, which I really do not like. I immediately set up a Justgiving page which gave me something to focus on, also in a strange round about way, gave me some peace and made me feel I was doing something. Even though deep down I think I had already accepted what the outcome was going to be, however, I never admitted it – I’ve never spoken to my father or my wife about these feelings to this day.

The cycling  always gave me something positive to show and talk with mum about during the darker months of chemo and even in her last days with us the hundreds of messages of support coming through were amazing and I’d like to think that gave her a boost.

My employers, SKODA UK were fantastic. Unquestionable and unchallenged support when I needed it. They even provided me with lots of cycling kit, a spare training bike and a place on the 2017 Ride London 100 to help with my training and build up to the big day. They even supplied a car and driver to collect me from the finish in John O’Groats and drive all the way back home. Amazing.

Steve Hopkins

Sadly mum lost her battle on 30th January last year. To make things even worse, on the morning of my mum’s funeral we were readying ourselves to travel down to London for the service when we received a unexpected call from my wife’s family to tell us that her father (my father in law) had sadly and unexpectedly passed away in his sleep. He had been battling with type 1 diabetes for a number of years. As you can imagine everything just went numb and how we, well my wife and our two daughters, got through that day I will never fathom.

So 2017 wasn’t the best of years so far. The big day finally arrived in September and after an emotional farewell in Lands End with my father I found myself battling the worst weather they had ever seen in 10 years of running the event. Gale force winds and rain greeted us at the start and didn’t really leave us alone over the following 9 days. Camping certainly had a new meaning for me.

“One of the feelings I am now just able to start understanding was that before and during the ride I blocked out what had happened to us… After the ride the emotions came.”

I captured each day in pictures on my Strava and my youngest daughter has just put together a video montage of all the pictures. With HIGH5 as one of the main event sponsors I certainly had my fair share of gels, drinks, protein shakes and energy bars and that got me through. 

One of the feelings I am now just able to start understanding was that before and during the ride I blocked out what had happened to us. Even right up to the 1st pit stop on the last day.  After that the emotions came in waves for the rest of that day. I suddenly realised that once I crossed the finish line, the focus, the reason for not letting it in, all the rubbish weather, the hours in the saddle, the excuses I suppose, were all gone and I now had to deal with the reality of it all. She was gone.

I was raising money for Macmillan and towards the end of mum’s time with us my focus was with the hospice who were caring for her. 

A year on we have experienced our “firsts” of most things now, both my mother’s and father in law’s birthday, Mother and Father’s Day and we are all managing to deal with things a little better. I’d like to think as a family, we are all somehow stronger and I hope by sharing my story other people in need of some inspiration when things get tough  are able to draw strength from it. 

Good luck to anyone who is about to take on a big challenge and keep up the great work – HIGH5 helped me through some 3,500 miles, 115,000ft of climbing, two Ride London 100, three Tour of Cambridge 80, LEJOG 979 miles in 9 days and if I can do all that, anyone can!

My waist line is still there, my average speed is just over 17mph now, but I’m happier and healthier than I’ve ever been – get out on your bikes people, it truly can help! 

Thank you for sharing your story with us Steve!

Keep checking in with us on our blog to hear more inspiring HIGH5 Stories. Got your own sporting story to share? Use the hashtag #HIGH5fuelled and tag us on FacebookTwitter or Instagram!