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Part 1 Pan Celtic Folly – Novice in at the deep end

Chris Davis | 03 May 2019

A recent email exchange with Pete, one of the co-founders of the Pan Celtic race – a 1440 mile, 86 371 feet climb and self-supported cycling adventure – was somewhat disconcerting:

Me: “Hi Pete- you’ve caught me cycling through Holland, Belgium and France for a long weekend in preparation for July. Trying a bivvy for first time and baptism of fire as it’s below freezing. Not looking forward to tonight!”

Pete: “Sounds awesome!”

His response horrified and excited me in equal measure: I appeared to be committed to a race conceived and run by lunatics.

A month or two earlier, Jim, my boss and founder of Enigma bikes, only half-jokingly suggested I enter the event, as Enigma was getting behind the inaugural race to be held in July 2019. Instinctively, I took the bait. Throwing yourself in at the deep end without hesitation; an openness to the absurd; well, these are traits we cherish from younger, more cavalier days. But with my 50th birthday looming in June, I wanted to at least keep within touching distance of that adventurous spirit.


The Pan Celtic Race 2019 is a 1440 mile, 86,371 ft climb, self-supported cycling adventure, journeying through the Celtic Nations of Scotland, Ireland and Wales. Entries close 31st May

Can I do it? It really does not matter. If I pull up short, it will be because I am unable to turn another pedal stroke. If that eventuality does come to pass, as long as I know deep down that I have given my all in preparation for and during the event, then I will have succeeded against my own criteria: to test myself physically and remain open to new experiences. The circumstances of my father, an enthusiastic cyclist, but now half paralysed and largely confined indoors following a severe stroke, has taught me not to take my physicality for granted, nor the world around me. Indeed, as I’ve got a little older and hopefully wiser, I now understand the adage of being open to failure. This seemed absurd to me in younger days, but I now realise that as you carve out your own competency and reputation, falling short of expectations has an increasing impact on ego and our perception of how others may see us. It’s natural then to increasingly play it safe: the physical and mental challenge of an event like the Pan Celtic offers a great antidote!

A book I read a few years ago, A Short Walk in the Hindu Kush by Eric Newby, has left a lasting impression. Newby’s autobiographical account of his adventures in the Hindu Kush is both hilarous, incredulous (incredible/unbelievable/astonishing?) and inspiring: he embodies the pinnacle of the have-a-go spirit, conquering incredible hardship with understated humour and indomitable spirit. I’d like to tap into just a small slither of what I so admired in Newby.

Highly recommend a read…

I’m motivated to write this blog to share my experiences and thoughts – covering everything from choice of kit, training, impact on family life, motivation, racing strategy and the like. I’ve appreciated similar narratives from others over the years for my own interests and projects, so this is my small (and possibly a little inept) contribution back. I’ll be posting every week or so in the lead up to the Pan Celtic in early July, and will definitely conclude by sharing by collecting my thoughts post-event in mid-July


Carefree cycling days with my brother on our Raleigh Tomahawks: really looking forward to capturing that freedom of spirit during the Pan Celtic