Katy Cooper is a newly appointed trustee of the Sussex Cricket Foundation, and is mountain-biking nearly 400 miles, solo, through Portugal and Spain to raise money for the SCF. You can sponsor her at www.justgiving.com/katycamino.
We thought we’d ask her what inspired her to take on this challenge:
I first had the idea of doing a Camino (it means ‘the Way’, or pilgrimage, in Spanish) when I was on holiday in France as a teenager. We camped overnight almost in the shadow of the beautiful cathedral at Vezelay, and I discovered that the scallop shells carved liberally into the building were the symbol of the Apostle St James, who is buried in the Cathedral at Santiago de Compostela in north-west Spain (‘Iago’ is ‘James’ in Spanish, so it’s Saint James’ Cathedral). Its popularity as a pilgrimage destination rivalled that of Jerusalem in the Middle Ages – largely because St James had a habit of popping up at helpful moments in battles to scare off the Moorish invaders, and the Spanish were very grateful for his ongoing support.
Have you done anything like this before?
Yes! I part-walked, part-cycled my first Camino last year, taking a route that starts just over the French border in the Pyrenees. This year’s route, from Lisbon up through Portugal, although being a bit shorter, is likely to be more of a challenge for me because it will be so much quieter – 150,000 people walked/biked the French route in 2015, but this time I will probably see only a few fellow pilgrims every day, so it won’t be nearly as sociable (I get quite bored of my own company quite quickly!). But I know that the excitement, sponsorship and the sights will keep me going.
Talk us through the route and some of those sights you will see.
I pick up the hire bike in Lisbon on Bank Holiday Monday, and will doubtless post a selfie outside the cathedral to prove I was there. I set off on Tuesday for 10 days of biking north, mostly on paths, but on roads in towns and if the weather gets rough. The first few days take me inland as far as Porto, and then I hug the coast for a couple of days before heading into Spain to Compostela. One way that I am rather different from other pilgrims is that I intend to stop at as many churches as I can, and (if they are open and no one minds) I will sing some really ancient songs, which would have been sung by the pilgrims as early as the 12th century. This can be a magical experience – it sometimes feels like the stones of the buildings know the tunes. (I should add that I do sing professionally in the UK, so in theory I know what I’m doing, even if I tend to sound very out of breath when I’ve just cycled up a massive hill.) The first few days of countryside are very flat, and I’ll be going plenty of distance – but after that it gets hillier… I’m hoping for some swimming in the sea, some glorious countryside, historic towns (Thomar, Coimbra, Porto…), and some beers at the end of each day. If you’re interested in following my progress, and seeing photos of the places I visit, I will be blogging at http://katycamino.wordpress.com.
How have you trained for this challenge?
I’m not sure if you would say I’ve trained specifically for this (and I didn’t last year either) – but I do keep myself in decent shape. I’m assistant director of a health charity, C3 Collaborating for Health, and I try to practise what we preach by going running three times a week. I also cycle pretty much everywhere in London, avoiding the double-whammy of the underground and Southern Rail – I probably average about 15km a day. But the Camino can be tough going – last year I managed to lose over half a stone in 16 days, but it’s very impractical as a weight-loss regime.
What happens if you get a flat tyre?
I’ll fix it, of course! But to be honest, that will be challenging because the tyres are super-thick and super-hard-to-get-off-the-wheel. My back-up plan is to remove the wheel, lock up the bike, and get a cab to and from the nearest bike shop, wherever that is. I’m hoping there won’t be a repeat of last year, when I had the bike stolen before I’d even started – but that’s a story for an evening in the pub sometime!
Why did you choose the Sussex Cricket Foundation?
That’s an easy one! I’ve just been appointed to be a trustee – and I’m really excited about it. I’m a big advocate of encouraging everyone to be physically active, which the SCF does so well. This needn’t necessarily be about playing sport (although of course cricket is the best sport of all, and I will be checking the ODI scores frequently while on the road!) – it’s about moving a bit more every day.
What is your fundraising target?
I thought I’d start with a target of £1000. It’s a lot of money, but I’m hoping that I can persuade friends, colleagues and SCF supporters to sponsor me the cost of a pint or two… If you sponsor me a penny a kilometre, that’d be £6.20 – cheap at the price – and of course I’d be delighted if you could spare more. SCF is doing amazing work, and I am really pleased to be able to lend my support. Now all I need to do is get cycling!
Make sure you sponsor Katy here www.justgiving.com/katycamino as she starts her mammoth trip on August 30th. If you’re interested in taking on a challenge of your own for The Sussex Cricket Foundation, please contact Faye Russell via Faye.Russell@sussexcricket.co.uk.