Saturday, July 13, 2024
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    DROMARA sisters Andrea Harrower and Cathy Booth have spoken of their delight at completing an epic 480-mile cycle around the periphery of Northern Ireland.

    Andrea completed the two-day challenge alongside her sister, Cathy, with the pair starting their cycle from Ormeau Park on Friday 9 June and finishing at Wallace High School on Sunday 11 June. The duo were raising money for NIPANC, a pancreatic cancer charity close to both their hearts. Andrea’s husband Paddy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in April of last year and sadly died just weeks later on July 24. Cathy’s school friend, Natalie Snodden, died at the age of 40 from the same type of cancer in the summer of 2017, leaving behind three children.

    Paddy, who was an avid sports fan and a PE teacher, wanted something positive to come from his diagnosis and encouraged both Andrea and Cathy to take on the challenge, dubbed ‘Pedal the Periphery’.

    Although spirits were high on Friday when the sisters set off from Belfast, Andrea admitted that the reality of their task set in when they were cycling in the early hours of Saturday morning. “You’ve been going for almost 24 hours at that stage, you’ve had one night of no sleep, so everything started to take its toll and the weather didn’t help. I would say from Saturday morning until two hours from the finish line on Sunday was really tough. “You’re still cycling and you’re engaging with people along the way, so people don’t realise how tough you’re having it. It was a constant internal battle to keep yourself going.”

    Andrea is a personal trainer and Cathy is an endurance sport enthusiast, so the physical aspect of their journey was perhaps not as taxing as it would be for some, but the emotional drain did prove to be a hurdle. “At the start line I was almost at the end of capacity emotionally, because of Paddy and the boys (her sons, Fraser, 19, and Alex, 15) and what we were doing it for, that was taking much more of a toll than the physical side of things. Emotionally, that was always going to be the biggest challenge”, Andrea said.

    Cathy says the support from other people played a major role in pushing them through the tough moments along the way. “The support we had along the route was phenomenal, there was really only six or seven hours of the journey where it was just Andrea and I. People came out to join us on the bikes but also if we’d pulled up and stopped for a 20-minute break, people would come over and donate. “I remember an elderly man in Warrenpoint so vividly. He came over to us with a crumpled up £5 note in his hand and came over and told us that he’s heard about us on the radio and came out to find us. “He started to tell us the story about his sister, who had been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer a couple of years ago and passed away within three weeks of diagnosis. “He’s made the effort to come out and contribute towards the fundraiser and to me that £5 note felt like more than any other donation we’d had, just because of the kindness of it.”

    The pair finished their province-wide cycle at Wallace High School, where Paddy had taught PE and Geography. Andrea described a “carnival feel” as she and Cathy crossed the finish line, something she hadn’t anticipated. “The image of crossing the finish line for about two months before the start of the challenge, was something I really struggled with. Any time I let my head or my imagery go there it was breaking me, so I was stopping myself from thinking about it because of what it symbolises. “When we did cross the finish line it was so much better than I expected it to be. “I expected there to be tears and a whole range of emotions, but there was a real carnival feel about it. “There were people out cheering and dressed in purple and it created a real party feel, which was what it should be.”

    The final fundraiser for ‘Pedal the Periphery’ will take place on Friday at 8pm, with a pub quiz at The Mariner. At the time of writing, over £75,500 has been raised, but Andrea and Cathy are hopeful they can reach the £100,000 mark.

    Going forward, the Dromara siblings want to continue their relationship with NIPANC and haven’t ruled out the prospect of an annual, expanded ‘Pedal the Periphery’ event. “People have already asked us about a Pedal the Periphery 2024. There’s nothing to say Pedal the Periphery can’t become an event where you can enter teams of 12, eight or six people. “We would love to continue the relationship with NIPANC and provide any sort of support we can in regards to their three key aims around supporting families, raising awareness and raising funds,” Cathy said. If you would like to make a donation to Andrea and Cathy’s campaign, you can visit fundraising/pedaltheperiphery.

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