We’ve got a great story of the work being done by the Club’s Community Sports Foundation and their Armed Forces Sports Scheme, with an update from HUCSF’s Dean Cartwright.
When Hartlepool United Community Sports Foundation (HUCSF) launched its Armed Forces Sports Scheme earlier this year, it seemed liked a good idea to ask the participants which activities they would like to do; then I met a guy called Charlie Eastwood and I began to have second thoughts.
The scheme is designed to support anyone that has served in any of the forces, regardless of age or ability, to get active and make new friends.
We host a Hub every Monday between 2pm-4pm in the Victoria Lounge at the ground, for new and current participants to have a chat, a cup of tea and discuss how we can help.
It was during one such session that I first met Charlie, an Army Veteran with over 20 years service under his belt, and we got talking about his passion for cycling.
He told me he would love someone to accompany him when he goes out which didn’t seem like an unreasonable request.
It should be pointed out here that Charlie (58) is partially-sighted, up until recently rode 40 miles-plus on a regular basis and most importantly from my perspective, he rides a tandem.
Having an unfounded sense of derring-do I, of course, agreed to be his pilot although that was swiftly followed by numerous concerns upon receiving further details of my role.
“You’ll only need to steer and change gears for me”, Charlie said before informing me that the tandem was a specialist road bike and has 23 of the aforementioned gears. As someone whose last bike was a 3-geared Raleigh Chopper that was last used to scrape through my cycle proficiency test, this was all a bit worrying!
When the big day arrived and I got to meet my nemesis, that’s the bike not Charlie, I couldn’t help but be impressed.
It really was a thing of beauty and my excitement grew right up until the time we started peddling and I nearly came off. Co-ordination is key here and it turns out I haven’t got any!
Charlie was great with his advice though, particularly when manoeuvering around corners, “treat it more like turning a bus than a bike” was the cry, and I soon got the hang of things.
Any concerns about cars getting too close were quickly dispelled; they were very respectful in general which was greatly appreciated.
And so, as we turned heads on our way to Seaton Carew, I began exceeding my standard 3 gear shifts and we ate up the road like Wiggins and Froome.
We spoke excitedly of future trips up the Hills of Hart Village, through the testing terrain of Trimdon and demolishing the peaks of Dalton Piercy before sprinting back down Marina Way to a rapturous reception at Victoria Park but then, as I descended that bicycle made for two, I felt it.
My first experience of saddle soreness had taken hold and, although we’d only rode a mere 8 miles, I waddled away like John Wayne with a haemorrhoid problem.
The gel seat hadn’t provided the level of support the name would suggest and I longed for the padded comfort that my old Chopper never failed to supply.
That said, I’d thoroughly enjoyed the experience and was delighted when Charlie expressed the same feelings. I was even happier that we hadn’t crashed or damaged the bike thus hitting all of my pre-ride targets.
And there ended the first of what I hope will be a regular fitness session for us as I look to build up my stamina for the exciting journeys that lie ahead.
So, if you see us out and about, please give us a beep or a wave unless, of course, it’s at the end of a 40 mile trek, in which case an oxygen mask or a rubber ring may be of more use.
If you or a family member have served in the Armed Forces and would be interested in either joining us on our outings or getting involved in our other activities, please drop us a line on 01429 862595, email us at HUCSF@hartlepoolunited.co.uk or pop along to our Hub Session every Monday between 2pm-4pm in the Victoria Lounge for a cup of tea and a chat.