John Etheridge from Combe Martin was first airlifted by Devon Air Ambulance back in 2015 when he dislocated his arm on a day out at RHS Rosemoor. The pain had been so bad it had caused him to pass out.

Since then, John has been determined to give back to the service that came to his rescue. At the age of 75, he cycled from Land’s End to John O’Groats and, in May 2019 – not long after turning 80- he began the 1,000 mile route in reverse from John O’Groats to Land’s End, accompanied by his friend Richard, a mere ‘spring chicken’ at the age of 65!

John Etherirdge at LandPedal powered fundraising

The pair began the route in hideous weather conditions, battling sleet and gale force winds, which was far from the ideal start they had hoped for. They cycled approximately 60 miles a day, usually from about 8am to 4pm. John proudly wore his Devon Air Ambulance t-shirt for the entire time so that everyone would know who he was fundraising for. This worked in his favour when he raised an extra £23 in a Scottish coffee shop when the staff and customers discovered he was taking on the long-distance challenge for charity.

John confessed there were times he thought I must be mad doing this!, especially with the unpredictable weather and, even when the skies did clear up, there was no escaping the numerous hills. He frequently found himself walking up the steep inclines instead, finally deciding, I don’t think I will ever go up another hill after this trip.

Putting his heart into it

Back in Devon, John found the hills around Dartmoor to be particularly challenging, with one hill, which felt more like a mountain, causing a pain in his chest where his pacemaker had been fitted. Regardless John powered on, determined he was well enough to continue with only two more days to go.

The final day of cycling, 18 days after they’d started, was very emotional. John explains:

The last five miles were the worst - I think it was fatigue and emotions together - but I finally made it. My legs were like jelly when I finished; I could have collapsed where I stood.

After all his hard work he was delighted to have raised an incredible £5,205.95 for DAA: 

Wow! This is without a doubt the hardest task I have ever set myself. I’ve just cycled a total of 1,074 miles – at the grand old age of 80! It feels so good that the Air Ambulance will benefit from my tired and aching muscles.

Far from hanging up his cycling shoes, however, John continues to cycle two or three times a week and, in May next year, he is planning to take on the canals around Bristol because he expects it will be much flatter and, hopefully, an easier route compared to this year’s challenge.

From everyone at DAA, Well done John, a very big thank you and good luck for whatever comes next!

Would you like to share a fundraiser or a patient story? Perhaps you started as a patient, like John, and became a fundraiser? Due to patient confidentiality, we don’t know who it is that we attend unless a patient decides to contact us, so we only hear from about 15% of those we serve. If you are a former patient who has a story you’d like to share, we would love to hear from you.