St Helens star and RFL Match Official Tara Jones is getting on her bike and raising funds for two very important and personal charities.
Alongside her friend and fellow RFL Match official Jamie Butterfield, the pair are aiming to cover over 500km in just five days, visiting 25 pro-clubs as they travel from Hull to St Helens on two wheels.
The lifting of some Coronavirus Lockdown regulations from this weekend means the duo plan to give themselves even more of a challenge by camping out at the end of each day’s cycling.
For even the most ardent of cyclists, this sort of challenge would involve months, if not years of planning and training, but Tara and Jamie will be completing it after only taking up the hobby during the current lockdown.
“We’re not professional cyclists by any means,” said Tara.
“But with us not able to do too much with the restrictions that were in place we decided to go out our bikes and we started riding.
“I didn’t even own a bike before lockdown and was given one by a friend and Jamie has been borrowing his dad’s bike. So we literally started riding for something to do during lockdown.
“Then it’s developed into this because we kept getting lost so we were doing much more than we’d originally planned. The first ride we did was around 40km and the next was around 80km.
“Our rides were getting longer each time so we decided to come up with a challenge and we’ve come up with a route that visits a lot of the professional grounds in the game.
“Because we are both involved in the game, we wanted Rugby League involved in what we are doing. We started with an idea of visiting all the Super League grounds, apart from Catalans and Toronto and we planned a route for that. But then we decided to try and include as many Championship and League 1 clubs that were on the way as well.
“The plan is we’ll be camping out at the end of each day – and that might be in someone’s back garden if there isn’t a campsite nearby. We’re still planning that part of things but now those restrictions have been eased slightly we know we can do it.
“We’ll not have the challenge of carrying all the camping equipment as we’re riding because Jamie’s sister is going to be with us driving a support vehicle so she’ll take it all. But we are going to face the demand of camping out, setting up the equipment at the end of a long tiring day and having to pack it all away every morning. We’re also probably not going to get a decent night sleep so we’re not going to be fully recovering between each leg of the trip, so that’ll be tough.”
It’s going to prove a mammoth challenge for the pair, so why are they doing it? The answer is simple – to raise vital funds that will help other people, as well as giving themselves something to focus on before they can get back on the field.
One of the charities that will benefit is the Shrewsbury-based Severn Hospice. It’s not a charity that usually springs to mind in Rugby League circles – but for Tara and Jamie in particular – it was at the top of their list.
“My auntie, Mel, lives down in Telford and she’s got terminal breast cancer,” explained Jamie.
“She goes to the hospice regularly for check-ups, support groups and things like that so it’s a big help for her.
“It’s a charity that is very close to my family’s hearts and I thought it would be really nice to do something for them and give a little something back.
“Every penny we can raise for a local charity like this really helps, especially now with all the Covid-related things they’ve had to deal with. They are really stretched at the minute, but are still making a big difference to people like my auntie.”
With 50% of the money raised going to the hospice, the other 50% will be handed over to the Steve Prescott Foundation.
“Within Rugby League there are so many great charities we could support, but we’re starting this challenge at Hull and finishing at St Helens. So with Steve having played for Hull FC and Saints, it seemed to link nicely to support them.
“Also, with Steve having suffered from cancer, and my family has been affected by the disease too, so both charities we’re supporting are linked in that way too.
“Because the Foundation supports two charities themselves – The Christie and Try Assist (previously The Rugby League Benevolent Fund) – it branches our efforts out even further and we’re supporting even more people.”
The journey starts on July 14 and the below itinerary is the planned route at this stage.
To show your support for the pair’s challenge – visit https://justgiving.com/team/tarajamierlcyclechallenge