Sunderland Army veteran wants cyclists to join Help for Heroes ride along Hadrian’s Wall route

Emperor Ride organiser Jim Holborn, with fellow veteran, recumbent cyclist Dave Shaw, on a recce of the route.
Emperor Ride organiser Jim Holborn, with fellow veteran, recumbent cyclist Dave Shaw, on a recce of the route.
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A wounded Army veteran from Wearside is appealing for cyclists to join him as he bids to complete a sponsored bike ride along the route of Hadrian’s Wall.

A 24-strong team has signed up to pedal the 100-mile route at the end of this month in aid of Help for Heroes, but organiser Jim Holborn is hoping others will join them on the final stretch to boost their morale and the total raised.

Army veteran Jim Holborn is taking part in the Emperor bike ride.

Army veteran Jim Holborn is taking part in the Emperor bike ride.

The charity is close to Jim’s heart as it has supported him during his road to recovery from devastating physical and mental wounds resulting from his nine years of service.

While in the Royal Logistic Corps, he snapped all the ligaments and tendons in his left ankle after his parachute failed to open and he fell 800ft to the ground in 2002.

After learning to walk again, Jim was deployed to Iraq, since when he has suffered from mental health problems.

Keen to give something back, the dad-of-two devised the Emperor bike ride, named after the head of the Roman Empire who oversaw the construction of the wall in around 120AD.

“I realise that some supporters don’t have the time or perhaps the fitness level to commit to the whole weekend but we would really love to swell the numbers, either just for the second day or even for the last few miles,” said the 35-year-old from Ford Estate in Sunderland.

“The larger the group to cross the finish line at South Shields, the bigger the impact we will have and, hopefully, the more money we will raise for Help for Heroes.”

Among the other veterans taking part is Dave Shaw from Dinnington who, due to having endured a major spine operation in which he had scaffolding placed around his spine, a plate in his left shoulder and his neck fused – will be using a recumbent trike.

Jim added: “I wanted to create something for beneficiaries who live in the North of England and Scotland so they don’t have to travel to one of the many organised charity bike ride that tend to be in the south.

“As Hadrian’s Wall is on the border of both regions, it seemed an obvious choice to follow its route.

Following his participation in last year’s Warrior Games, a tournament for injured service personnel, Jim says he realised how important a role exercise plays in recovery.

He is hoping wounded veterans completing the Emperor Bike Ride will similarly benefit, while money raised will purchase a piece of adaptive equipment for the gym at Help for Heroes northern Recovery Centre, at Phoenix House in Catterick, North Yorkshire.

“The physical benefits of exercise are well known but it is also a massive help for your mental state of mind,” said Jim.

“It takes your mind off all the negative thoughts in there.

“Also people with PTSD and other mental illnesses really struggle to sleep but exercise makes you more tired and therefore you sleep better.

“And that then makes you much more able to cope the following day, which benefits not just you but your whole family.”

The riders will set off on April 29 from Bowness on Solway, north west Cumbria, stop at Bardon Mill overnight and then continue to the finishing point in South Shields on April 30.

Registration fees for the ride are £10 to join the peloton for part of the journey.

Transport from there can be arranged for anyone joining the ride for the second day.

Those interested in joining the group at some stage on the second day should email david.routledge@h4hcounty.org.uk.