A college marketing officer went that extra mile — and then some — for mental health charity Mind after overcoming depression, writes Billy Camden.
A monumental challenge has been completed by Chichester College marketing officer Tom Walters and friend Morgan Calton, who cycled 2,150 miles across South East Asia in just 22 days.
The duo, who became friends while University of Portsmouth students, endured excruciating heat of up to 46C (114F) with 90 per cent humidity all in aid of fighting depression with both having emerged from their own battles with the illness.
They managed to raise nearly £8,000 for mental health charity Mind, with college staff and learners doing their fundraising bit with a 100-mile cycle ride on spin bikes in the college canteen.
The duo travelled through North Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore during their three weeks in what was also a race against time. They had no leeway on daily mileage with non-transferrable flights booked exactly 22 days after they set out.
“For much of the route it felt like an out of body experience because it was so hot and the sun was constantly beaming on our head for so many hours during the day that you didn’t feel like you were there. It was like looking at yourself from above,” said 30-year-old Tom.
He added: “We very much want to make people talk and be aware of mental health issues and take that stigma away, especially in men.
“The support from the community in the college has just been phenomenal.”
Tom crossing the water during his South East Asia cycle challenge
During the trek Tom and Morgan, aged 31, climbed 10,000 ft — two and a half times the size of Ben Nevis — in one day, before coming across the sweltering conditions of Thailand.
“It was then that the heat hit us,” said Tom.
“We were cycling along the Thai equivalent of the M6 along the hard shoulder so the heat from the tarmac and passing lorries made it about 50 to 55C [122 to 131F].”
But as the “life-changing experience” came to an end at the Merlion statue in Singapore, Tom and Morgan didn’t quite get the sensation they had anticipated.
Tom said: “For 22 days all you’re thinking about is the finish line and how you’re going to feel when you get there. But actually it was a massive anti-climax.
“We were expecting to be so tired, worn out and shattered, but we weren’t. We got stronger as the days progressed. The finish was brilliant, but when we got there it was a bit like ‘what do we do now?’ so in the 12 hours before the flight back, to celebrate, we drank heavily.”
Main pic: Tom Walters (left) and Morgan Calton at a fundraising event before their challenge for Mind.