North End’s first team assistant sports scientist Luke Hemmings is back preparing for the return of the Lilywhites squad.
And this will be a rest for him after his amazing charitable efforts over the past few weeks. Luke covered an epic 1,200 miles in just three weeks, travelling the whole length of Great Britain, from John O’Groats to Land’s End using only the means of his bike covering 875 miles in the process.
He then ditched the wheels and continued on from Land’s End to Dover, covering a further 356 miles just by foot, taking part in 14 marathons in 14 days!
After returning to Preston, he spoke to PNE.Com to reflect on the mammoth task, but also on the background and reason he managed to keep going through it.
“The enormity of the task sunk in quite quickly,” he said. “It was ten hour days on the bike, turning into 12 hour days with stops for dinner and things like that. We were setting off at five in the morning and only getting back at five at night. By the time you finish doing all your recovery it’s straight to bed.
“The weather was perfect. I got from one end of the country to the other without a puncture, so someone was looking down on me on the bike. Going through Scotland, I think I had ten minutes worth of rain in four days of riding. The locals were saying you’ll never get weather like this for years.
“I got to see Loch Ness, it was like a mirror, it was so still. The sights I saw and the time I had made it more worthwhile, throughout the 12-hour days I just kept thinking why I was doing it. I kept getting back to camp each night and looking at the donations that kept coming in and thinking this is what it’s all about.
“People would come up to me on campsites and give me donations, £20 to £40 donations and they’d never met me before.
“A little girl of about five came over and gave me £1.50 in change out of her pocket money so it’s things like that that keep you remembering why you’re doing it.
“There are some dark times, times where you are in a bad mental state, but you’ve got to realise why you’re doing it.
“One of the main things I kept thinking about was Richard who passed away from it, he suffered for ten years, I was thinking it hurts, but Richard can’t just say it hurts and I’ll stop now. He had ten years of it. So that just kept me going, thinking he dealt with ten years of pain and worrying and ultimately you’ve got to live with it. It kept my legs going, kept me pedalling and putting one foot in front of the other.”
And travelling down the country, all in aid of Prostate Cancer UK, the awareness of the charity and its fine work was also something that became more and more to peoples’ attention.
“We had all the Prostate Cancer banners and we all had Prostate Cancer shirts on,” continued Luke. “People were asking and we were discussing it. We actually met two people on the trip who had recovered from Prostate Cancer, one of them was on one of the marathons and he said it was his first trip out since recovering.
“On the camp sites another man said he’d suffered with it and we were just talking about it. It kind of got a crowd, just five people at a time talking about it. It wasn’t just men, there were women as well who know men that have had it.
“I’d definitely say the awareness was there, especially on the south coast, on a lot of the piers I would run along them and people would ask what I’m doing it for and things like that. I definitely think as a journey as well as the money there has been a lot of awareness raised, with the badge and the task everyone has been asking, which just raises the awareness.
“People have been asking how can I have a look at what you’re doing? They type in Luke’s UK Event and all the facts are there, so I think the awareness was there.”
So was the event harder that he had expected? “With the bike I was prepared and with the running I was prepared, but not to the enormity of the task.
“I’ve covered the marathon distance before, but I haven’t got up the next morning and done it again.
“There were some dark times with injuries and things like that, where you are in really bad pain, but you keep going. That’s something that I think that, looking back, you can’t train for. You can’t train through that pain, you can’t replicate that pain you go through and train through it. That’s something my body and my mind struggled to get through, but after four or five days, especially running, I could physically feel my body getting used to it saying right, we’re going again.
“When I got home my feet were hurting more than usual, my body had recognised that we’d finished and had starting to repair. So when I got home my feet were really warm and I couldn’t sleep, I think it’s because my body realised that I had finished.
“That’s also something that you can’t train for and mentally think about. I don’t think I could have physically prepared better than I did, but mentally, that was the tough one, but you can’t mentally take yourself to those places.
“I would say to those that think about doing it, don’t underestimate the mental side of it because there is a lot there. Physically I thought it was okay, I never expected to be alright, but I’d say it was okay. There’s a lot of pain but it’s all for that worthy cause.”
And despite those hard days, the team behind him and the support via the sponsorship of hundreds of people, made the task much easier to cope with.
“The team I had behind me, looking back at it, I don’t think could have been any better. I have my uncle who has been through a lot of things and he can relate to where I was and give me advice from where he’d see it from a different point of view.
“Then there was brother, who is a full-on nutcase 24/7 so he would always be there lightening the mood. So there was a good mix of being serious and talking about what’s been bothering you, and once that’s done it’s gone and we’ll have a laugh.
“My mum and dad came down to meet us, they drove six hours to once and see us for two days. My little brother came out for a little bit and Danny was there to support us some of the run/walks.
“All in all, I would say I have made a lot of memories and I’ve had the chance to see the country in all its glory, especially with the weather. And at the same time I was going along the country talking to people about Prostate Cancer and raising money. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives, in terms of injuries and dark times.
“The pain that the people and the families go through is hard, that’s what makes it worth it for me. Without challenging yourself you’re never really achieving something. That sense of achievement really did sink in this morning when I woke up and didn’t get a knock on the door saying we were going.
“A sigh of relief as my alarm didn’t go off at five! I’d definitely say that although there were dark times, they were massively outweighed by good times. The feeling of making a difference to all those effected by Prostate Cancer.
“I set a fundraising target of £5,000 to start with and I think we’d reached that within three days of the cycling. That was massively uplifting.
“Every day I would come back, I’d do my recovery and then we’d have a look on the internet. I just kept seeing all the donations coming through, £2, £3, that’s what it’s all about – it adds up.
“The £1.50 from the little girl on the camp site, it adds up.
“I set the £5,000 mark, I haven’t had a proper count yet but I wouldn’t be surprised if we hit the £15,000 mark. Tripling the amount is something that has kept me going massively. There’s been a lot of people out there that have supported us with generous amounts.
“The lads have been fantastic, fans have been getting onto my JustGiving. It’s not just the money it’s the wishes of good luck and people ringing you in the morning and seeing how you are, messaging you and commenting on all your things. That keeps you going as well.
“It’s not just the money it’s the moral support from everyone that really did help and make it all that little bit easier for me to get it done,” he added.