While the majority of us are preparing for Christmas and New Year in the company of our friends and loved ones, a Bornacoola native will be putting together the final preparations for a once in a lifetime journey.
Thirty-year-old school teacher Philip Howard, a former County Leitrim footballer who is currently taking a career break from working in Smithfield in inner city Dublin, will travel to Cairo on the first week of January to take on a mammoth physical and mental challenge. Beginning on January 10th, Philip will travel from the Egyptian capital to Cape Town in SouthAfrica.
Travelling by racing bike, almost 12,000 kilometres through eight countries including Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Botswana, the south Leitrim native will experience pressure and stress on his body that not even a county final day at Pairc Sean could produce.
“You can prepare as much as you like for the physical aspect,” he says. “But you cannot be ready for the mental challenge that’s ahead.
“The body will go through massive changes from getting up every morning and going straight at it, to the heat of a different climate and the exhaustion that goes with it.”
Three support vehicles will assist Philip and his fellow bikers along the way, with a chef on board to prepare energy boosting meals along with a mechanic to fix any problems the cyclists may experience on the rough African terrain.
Philip is making the journey with Tour D’Afrique, a Toronto-based company who organise bike journeys and races all over the planet.
Along the way, the 50-strong group will encounter several world famous landmarks including the Karnak Temple, the Great Rift Valley and Victoria Falls.
“I came across a few travel books a while ago and I was captivated by all the trips to different places they mentioned like the North Pole and Everest.”
To Philip, one of these journeys would be an achievement on a massive scale.
“I enjoy travelling and I enjoy a challenge. I heard about Tour D’Afric last Christmas and I thought it sounded amazing so I signed up.”
Teaching in St Paul’s CBS on Brunswick Street in Smithfield, Philip has taken a short career break to train and prepare himself for this demanding adventure.
In order to prepare, he trains between ten and twelve hours per week both in the gym and on short and long cycles.
Having experienced the death of a close relative, Philip feels Pieta House was a fitting charity to donate all funds towards. “Suicide is a severe problem right now in Ireland.
“With all the press it has received in recent times, especially in this area, I felt it was time to give a group that helped those affected by the issue some needed publicity.
“My family experienced it on my mother’s side a while back so I guess there are personal reasons too.”
You can follow Philip’s progress as he prepares for his tour of Africa on his blog at onyerbikeinafrica.com.
To date, Philip has raised just under €6,000 with his eventual target set ate12,000.
All funds raised will go towards Pieta House who currently run three centres in Dublin and one in Limerick. Plans are also in place to open centres in Tuam, Roscrea and Cork in early 2013.
To sponsor Philip on this once in a lifetime journey visit mycharity.ie/event/onyerbikeinafrica.