An RAF veteran who, as a teenager, was a member of the Army Cadets in Heysham and Morecambe, is to cycle – on a recumbent bike – 450 miles from Edinburgh to Windsor as part of her road to recovery from mental health problems.
Former intelligence analyst Helen Bolland was on target for a high-powered career until, after serving in Iraq in 2005, she began to experience mental health problems such as paranoia, insomnia and nightmares.
It’s been a long haul for Helen to feel fit enough – both mentally and physically – to embark on such a huge challenge as Hero Ride but she is determined to prove that there is “life after injury” and to inspire other wounded and injured servicemen, women and veterans to follow in her tyre tracks.
She will be joined on the seven-day challenge by members of the public who are raising money for Help for Heroes through sponsorship.
Keen cyclists from Lancashire and Cumbria can also sign up and ride alongside Helen – either on the entire 450 mile journey, or by joining the group as it passes through North Yorkshire on Day 4 and continue for the remaining 260 miles.
“I am dreading all the hills but will take each one as an achievement,” said Helen. “Every hill you cycle up is like a metaphor for your own personal battles of getting out of those dark holes – some are long and winding, some so incredibly steep that you think you will roll back down, while others are just a small blip – all really like life.”
Helen attended St Helen’s Primary School in Overton, Heysham High School and Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School, only leaving the area when she joined the RAF at the age of 20.
“I have fond memories of my time in Morecambe and still keep in touch with friends from my school days,” said Helen. “In fact, it was my membership of the local Army Cadets that fuelled an interest in a military career.”
Medically discharged from the RAF in 2008 and not knowing where to go for help, her condition continued to deteriorate until, in 2012, a friend suggested she contacted Help for Heroes.
After joining the charity’s Band of Brothers, which offers lifelong support and opportunities to servicemen, women and veterans who are wounded, injured or sick, she was invited to join a group visit to the Great Wall of China.
“It was an amazing trip and helped bring the old me back out,” said the 34-year-old.
To find out more or to reserve your place on the ride, visit www.heroride.org.uk.