The Long Ride C2C: Paula Embarks on a record-breaking 19,800km Cycling Odyssey to Inspire and Empower

Dubai-based adventurer set to cycle 19,800 kms from South Africa to Norway

Tell us about yourself, your background and your work.
I’m 42 and for the last 15 years I’ve carved out a sports therapy career specialising in prehabilitation – injury prevention for athletes. I was born in Wales, but my parents moved us to South Africa when I was 8 and that is where I grew up.

What inspired you to undertake this epic bike ride?
I’ve always dreamed big, but life happens and without the support you sometimes think you need, you let dreams slide but they never stopped haunting me. As I got older I decided it’s now or never and I don’t ever want to look back with regret. I am using the ride as a catalyst for bigger dreams of helping children is disadvantaged communities realise their own potential  

How are you planning for it?
Step by step. Ticking off boxes and reaching mile stones. My performance coach once told me that once the corner stone of my dream is in place the foundation will be solid. 

Are there others involved?
There are many involved to help me see this through, Ian Jenner my amazing British certified cycling Coach (Italy based) Melissa Abbey my Dubai based physio, Craig Lombardi owner Kamikaze Chipmunks – a concierge service for the adventurous: they’re my support crew following me, keeping me safe. John Thomson – owner of Oryx Cycling Tours and my main sponsor, Kyani supplements – also a sponsor. Ronnie Rodriguez is a Dubai-based DJ and an amazing friend who is curating a Spotify Radio Station that anyone can subscribe to and listen to some great music. Get updates on my ride and have lots of fun with us. The Long Ride C2C radio station.
The love and support of the cycling community here in Dubai. 

What’s your biggest concern in terms of the ride?
I try and not allow anything to concern me too much because I feel if you get bogged down in all the little things you lose track of the big picture, however that being said I’m keeping a close eye on global events. I’m reassured daily by being plugged into a WhatsApp group of cyclists in Africa and everyone is cycling to their hearts content. This is invaluable to me as they’re the heartbeat of the continent. You get by the minute information. It’ll truly help navigating through the whole of Africa. 

And tell us about your foundation
A New Future Foundation.
For as long as I can remember I’ve always wanted to work with children in some capacity. This deep rooted calling has never subsided. I’ve simply cultivated how I wanted to help of the years. I look around me and I see so many children being left behind in the world simply because their parents can’t afford to give them the education they need. Our educational systems also fail our children in that they create parrots. I believe an educational system based on getting the child involved in their learning, getting hands on, helping them absorb knowledge. Keeping them fit in mind and body. So I started thinking how can I do this where I know it’s the children who are the only ones benefiting from such an endeavour. There seemed to be only one answer start a foundation where I’m in control so no one including myself is benefiting – only the children. As I started thinking about building schools the enormity of my idea struck me and so I started looking around and through a cyclist here in Dubai – Greg Petersen, I discovered The Kwano Foundation in South Africa. They use cycling and education as a catalyst to help children become positive members of society. By elevating our children we elevate everyone’s future. I will be working alongside Kwano to learn as much as I possibly can before taking it and running with it further afield. The intention is to keep funds aside for investment so this can continue to fund the foundation and help as many children as possible all over the world. 

What would you say to someone facing a challenge?
Do not shy away from it. Stare at it right in the face and tackle it one thing at a time. Never do what I did for many years and ignore them because the more you ignore it the bigger it gets. Dig deep and if no one else believes in you, believe in yourself. You’re never given anything you can’t overcome and you’ll come out so much stronger the other side. 

How long will the ride take? Where will you sleep?
I’ve said 100 days or less and I’m aiming for less. Sleeping is going to vary. Camping roadside to hopefully grabbing a bed for the night somewhere. Honestly this part can’t be planned out simply because anything could happen along the way. While I know the route it might not always be possible to hit every days kilometers as planned so this needs to be a little more free. 

How can people follow your journey?
At the moment my instagram account is the most active. @thelongridec2c.2 My YouTube account will be pretty active as the ride gets underway The Long Ride C2C 

What are your plans post-ride?
I have lots of ideas but the first thing I want to post ride is get to Italy to what the Giro d’Italia which goes right past my coaches town in Garda. Then I want to get to South Africa and do some work with Kwano.
Hopefully I will be able to create a documentary of the ride and show the world anything is capable. 

Then as a personal goal in my style of thinking big I want to open my prehabilitation sports therapy gym here in Dubai. I have written and drawn all the art myself for a graphic novel I want to publish, also hopefully publish another book I’ve written called Memoirs of an Ordinary Girl. Finish a third book I started writing. 

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