For most, managing a hugely successful business combined with every day family life is challenging enough. For Tom Samuel, Managing Director at Harmonic near Ilminster, it’s only the start. Tom is also a Trustee at St. Margaret’s Hospice, while in his spare time he enjoys nothing better than a bike ride to blow the cobwebs away.

Trustees are volunteers who deliver challenge and accountability to organisations such as St. Margaret’s and the role requires a time commitment throughout the year, to attend board and committee meetings. But for Tom, it doesn’t stop there! Last year Tom and some cycling friends decided to challenge themselves, applying for a place in the Fred Whitton Challenge, held in the Lake District.

Not fully expecting to get in, the enormity of the challenge sunk in when they found out they had been accepted in January. The event is a gruelling 112 mile sportive challenge ride for charity around the Lake District, held in memory of Fred Whitton. From 2014, it has started and finished in Grasmere, and the route includes the climbs of Kirkstone, Honister, Newlands, Whinlatter, Hardknott & Wrynose passes.

Training started in January and to motivate and inspire him during those dark cold months, Tom decided that he could use the challenge as a way to raise money for the charity he already donates so much to. “Asking people to sponsor me to complete the event gave me the motivation I needed to keep going through the most physically and mentally challenging parts of the course. There were no excuses, no giving up, during the preparation or on the day,” said Tom.

Taking place on the 8th May this year, the weather turned out glorious and the cyclists found themselves basking in 22 degree heat! Tom said “The route is really split into 3 parts - the first 60 miles were a joy to do, with beautiful countryside and 4 or 5 passes which were challenging but forgiving. It was the perfect opportunity to relax into the ride.”

The next 35 miles however were dull in comparison. The scenery had changed and was no longer as consuming - it was then that the ride started to take its toll. At 95 miles the hardest passes arrived: Hardknott and Rhinos pass. When Tom started the challenge he just wanted to finish but as he saw his fellow cyclists dismount and walk these inclines, Tom was determined to stay on the bike, mainly because his daughters’ words of encouragement had been: “I’ll only be proud of you Dad if you ride all the way up Hardknott pass!”

Tom said “I was elated when I got to the top of the last hard pass. The final 10 miles were mostly flat and were a pleasure to ride, especially as I had a great sense of achievement accompanying me all the way to the end.

“I’m so pleased I took part and all the while raising money for St. Margaret’s. Working closely with the hospice really does open your eyes to the wonderful care it provides our community. Thank you to everyone who sponsored me, even my so-called friends who seemed to put their hands further in their pockets at the thought that I’d be in pain!”

Ann Lee, CEO at St. Margaret’s, said “It really is an amazing achievement. Not only has Tom completed such a gruelling challenge, he’s also raised money for a charity he already does so much for. Tom raised over £1,400, funds that will go directly to making each day count for patients and their families facing a life-limiting illness.”