LEAP Challenge is an 11 day Mountain Bike ride from Cape Town to Pietermaritzburg, following back (dirt) roads wherever reasonably possible, and covering an average of 160 km per day.
In the middle of 2011 I heard of Phil Masterton-Smith who, in 1933, wanted to run the Comrades Marathon. He couldn’t afford the train ticket from Cape Town, and so he cycled to the start over about 10 days. I thought that this sounded like a good challenge, and decided I would give it a go. My decision wasn’t about firsts; rather it was a personal goal which I wanted to achieve while the hourglass still had sand in the top half…
I chaired the Board of Grace College (which is a relatively new Christian private school) for 6 years, and I finished serving in March 2012. I wanted to do something for the school as a parting gift, and decided to use this personal challenge to raise money for one of Grace’s outreach initiatives, the Learner Enhancement and Advancement Programme.
Established in 2004, LEAP has been operating with steady growth and progress since its inception. This programme was created by the fact that many pupils, primarily from previously disadvantaged schools, and entering the high school environment for the first time, were seriously battling to keep up with their peers in Grade 8. Initially, learners were selected and offered one year's intensive training in essential numeracy and literacy skills. If they were successful, they were then offered the opportunity to be absorbed into the main system for the rest of their high school careers. For various reasons, this approach has now been changed.
Schools are now required to identify a pupil who has potential, but comes from a very poor economic background. Only two pupils are absorbed into the programme each year, and are offered the opportunity to further their studies at Grace College. These pupils have to come from any two of our numerous neighbouring rural primary schools. Grace College sponsors 10 of these learners each academic year, spread over 5 grades. There can be no doubt that many of them are having to work to put food on the table, mainly because HIV/AIDS has removed the breadwinner from the family, and as a result education often takes a back seat in their priorities.
So I left Cape Town on 25 May, and rode alone and unsupported to Pietermaritzburg over 9 days. This is a total distance of 1 656 km, which is 185 km per day on average. I finished the ride in the allocated 9 days, ending at the ‘Maritzburg City Hall at 12.45 pm on 02 June. I started Comrades at 05.30 am the next day, but unfortunately, I learned that my body does have limits; I pulled out at halfway. In the process, through the generosity of various donors, LEAP accumulated R190 000.
My plan now is to use this experience to found an annual event, called the LEAP Challenge. Its specific aim is to bring in an annual income for LEAP, and to provide a great personal challenge to those ready to accept it.