THE Guardian’s Pedal Power campaign aims to inspire our readers to get out on their bikes.
This week’s article features a man with one of the most inspiring stories we have covered during the campaign.
Adrian Derbyshire is appearing at the Pedal Power Festival on May 11, to ride the route and chat to visitors about his achievements in the face of overwhelming adversity.
If you want to ride the course with Adrian, which is a flat five-mile route and includes stopping points for live music and art projects, visit northwichguardian.co.uk/pedal-power
WHEN Adrian Derbyshire went to bed on August 20, 2008, a fit and healthy 34-year-old he had no idea that he would wake up in a completely different life.
Without suffering a single symptom beforehand, overnight Adrian suffered a major brain haemorrhage which left him permanently disabled.
Specialists at the Walton Centre discovered the haemorrhage had caused chemical meningitis, damaging his speech and balance, and that he had a tumour at the core of his brain which they could do nothing about.
“They weren’t sure if I was going to live or not so told me to just enjoy life,” he said.
For most this would be easier said than done as he had to re-learn all the basics, including reading, writing and speaking, as well as learning to live with a disability and the ever-present threat of the tumour.
“It was a choice,” he said.
“I could wallow in self pity on the couch or do something about it, do something with my life that had changed massively.”
So he looked up disabled sports on the internet, applied for a Paralympic taster weekend and, by summer 2009, had been chosen to represent Great Britain in fencing.
He went on to win two gold and three silver medals in national and international competitions.
“I’ve toured the world competing for my country, I’ve carried the Olympic torch and taken part in the Paralympic lantern event, I’m an ambassador for six charities and I’ve coached more than 5,000 children,” he said.
“From being on death’s door to where I am now in five years is unprecedented.
“Having achieved so much I wanted to achieve more and inspire people.”
So Adrian’s latest challenge is to hand-cycle around the UK talking to schools about sport and about hate crime, which he has been a victim of himself.
The Warrington man’s first foray into the outside world in a wheelchair resulted in a passing motorist shouting ‘cripple’ at him, destroying his confidence so much that he did not want to venture out again for four months.
“You can make a throwaway comment that you laugh about but to the person you say it to it can affect the rest of their lives,” he said.
As an ambassador for Stop Hate UK and the Warrington Hate Crime Strategy, Adrian has been cycling a marathon distance a day to speak to children and teenagers.
“Hand cycling that distance takes a tremendous strain on your body and I still have the tumour – it’s still there and it will kill me – but it is making a difference and that makes it all worthwhile,” he said.
“Children are already approaching me after assemblies in just the first three weeks and it’s changing people’s lives.
“The hand cycle is a tool that not only allows me to promote health and well being but gets me into the schools to talk about hate crime.
“They see that I may be disabled but I’m still cycling a marathon a day and that gets them thinking.
“Look at what happened to me five-and-a-half years ago – if I can do it anyone can.”