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News > Alumni News > Charlie Kitson (Class of 1980)

Charlie Kitson (Class of 1980)

60 Years Around The Sun, 3 Goals for a special Year...
28 Nov 2022
United Kingdom
Alumni News


80s Alumni

We have recently had the pleasure of catching up with Charlie Kitson (Class of 1980) who has recently embarked on an incredible adventure to celebrate his 60th Birthday.

Could you tell us more about the 3 challenges, as part of your 60 Years Around The Sun, 3 Goals for a Special Year campaign, and the hurdles that you have faced along the way?

Last year as I was approaching 60, I reflected on my life, what I'd achieved and what I would still like to achieve. Most of that involves cycling, climb some of the big climbs of Le Tour de France, end to end New Zealand, coast to coast USA for example and perhaps I'll give those a go once retired. However, with that big milestone coming up I decided on 3 events closer to home as 1 or 2 didn't seem sufficient.

Lockdown allowed me a way of setting a better work/life balance and in particular gave me the opportunity to really reconnect with sport. Being able to recover time by not commuting coupled with a need to get out of the house; my partner and I began walking around the local area. We also found time to do longer walks some which seemed a lot shorter on the map than they turned out to be. I also wanted to return to cycling, something that had been pushed to the side when the children came along and they're sporting interests took precedence. The elder 2 got into football and I ended up as a qualified coach and referee, climbing the ladder until my health prevented me passing the fitness test albeit by a measly 10 meters. So, I dusted off my bike and set it up in the garage on a turbo trainer and pedalled away on virtual roads.

As you'll be able to read on the link above my health has been a constant hurdle and yet I've never let it prevent me challenging myself. As I said to the doctor at the end of the Ride Across Britain, if you stop you STOP and I don't want to just become a coach potato. I've had Asthma since the age of 2 and my fellow alumni may well remember me wheezing my way through a few classes! This unfortunately developed into Bronchiectesis in 2006. In 2000 I was diagnosed with Sinus Bradycardia, meaning my heartbeat is too slow at 40 bpm, although I prefer to think I'm super fit! I had a cardiac pacemaker fitted in 2003, and more recently the GP decided I had Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, although, that one is in dispute as the consultant says I don't. Whilst these affect my cardio-pulmonary output, my fuel intake can be affected by my Barrett's Oesophagus diagnosed in 1998. Added into this mix, my left knee has advanced osteoarthritis, not helped by my bending it backward during a football match I was officiating. So, one could argue not in the best of health to decide to take on 3 big sporting challenges.

Unfortunately, my health tried it's best to get in the way and in between events I had to contend with a serious chest infection lasting 3 weeks. An infected Olecranon Bursitis which required hospital intervention, Covid itself, and my troublesome knee. However not one to give in to such things I attempted all 3 challenges.

The 3 challenges were:

London to Brighton Ultra  - This actually replaced my intended ultra Race to the Castle. Race to the Castle was 100km across Northumberland to Bamburgh Castle and passing close to where I used to live and through the village my youngest lives. However, storm Arwen put paid to it as most of the first 30 miles were through forest devastated in the storm. I had firsthand experience of Arwen being in the area at the time visiting my son and youngest daughter. L2B, as it's known, was the same distance, if not quite the same scenery, no 20 miles along the gorgeous Northumberland coast. Unfortunately, I was unable to complete the distance having injured my arthritic knee stumbling over a rut in a field. Still 36 miles isn't bad considering.

Cycling Time Trial's National 24hr - A cycle event I've taken part in 5 times previously with my current personal best of 263 miles. To put that into context the national record stands at 544 miles. I know I'm never going to win it's the personal challenge that counts. This one was the worst I'd ridden, worse than the rain I endured back in 2014, and described by one of the finishers as "horrific". 49 started only 35 finished not including myself as I climbed off after 167 miles at 04:45.

Ride Across Britain - Land's End to John O' Groats, a bucket list ride for any cyclist but this one is a challenge because it's undertaken in 9 days which equates to over 100 miles cycling per day. My challenge ended in the medical tent in a field somewhere near Edinburgh as I'd been coughing up blood. A ride that really was full of blood, sweat and tears. The doctor expressed his shock at my even making the start line but why shouldn't I have? Whatever your situation you can achieve your goals and whilst I didn't complete this, or my other challenges, I did achieve some truly remarkable things, not that it felt that way for a while. On the Ride Across Britain, I cycled 643.78 miles / 1,036.06 km, 40,637 ft / 12,386 m of climbing in a total (on the bike) time of 54 hours 28 seconds.

The problem now is that these challenges remain to be completed so perhaps watch this space!

Was sport something that you were interested in at BGS, do you have any particular sporting memories?

Not really! Back in the 70's sport at schools seemed (from hazy memory) to be football and cross country outside and assault course type gym sessions inside with occasional time in the swimming pool. I was there when the swimming pool roof collapsed during one of our lessons. Another vivid memory covers the cross country runs that everyone had to take part in, to earn points for your house, during the cold December to January months. The weather was not always kind and on one particular run it was so cold and snowy the lake we ran round was frozen over. Not being particularly athletic and with Asthma medication in its infancy these were challenging experiences for me. However, Mr Clarke was always very encouraging, and my own personal drive kept me going.

It was outside of school that my sporting interests grew. Cycling was a big part of my life and several classmates also cycled. We'd sometimes go out at the weekend and during holidays heading off into the surrounding countryside. All at a time when the roads were quieter and less developed, armed with just a map. It was the sense of freedom we enjoyed. Together with one particular friend, Neil, I toured the New Forest and Wales on my bike, andeveral of us completed our Duke of Edinburgh Bronze award by cycling, using what would now be called bike packing, we camped overnight in a farmer's field.

In 1979 I was the Junior British Cycle Touring Competition winner, an event held over 2 days in Shropshire. For this I was awarded my "Colours" for Cycling by Mr Clarke.


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