14 May, 2023

RAF pilot Jim Roden and RAF Engineer Mark Shearn take on a slightly different mission this summer than their normal day job of transporting goods into the Middle East.  Instead, they will swap an aircraft for pedalos! Read their pedalo challenge here.

Why a pedalo challenge?

‘Shearny’, a Ground Engineer on the Hercules for over ten years, acquired some damaged pedalos last year. He has restored them to complete the Thames challenge. After a brief conversation with Jim, the two decided to organise the event and raise money for charity to mark the retirement of the Hercules transport aircraft that they have both operated for some 20 years plus each.  

The 15-strong male and female team will embark on a 140-mile journey from Lechlade – near their RAF base Brize Norton in Oxfordshire – to London along the River Thames. The group will travel on their painted green pedalos to resemble the famous Hercules. 

But to make the challenge even more unique, the group will raise money for Breast Cancer UK, recognising a cause directly affecting Jim and his colleagues’ families. 

Jim’s mum has had breast cancer twice. But thankfully is now doing well. Having had the all-clear after several operations. 

Squadron Leader Jim said: “Amazingly, my mum has survived both a lumpectomy and a mastectomy years later. This disease has also touched a lot of my colleagues. We just wanted to choose a charity close to all our hearts. 

“We will have women involved as well, but we liked the idea that we are promoting equality by supporting the fight against this predominantly female disease.”

Men in orange t-shirts in pedalos

The pedalo challenge explained

The challenge in early July will see the team travel by pedalos. At a speed of about three mph. Departing Lechlade on Sunday, 2nd July at 2 pm to arrive in London 6 days later on Friday, 7th July. 

The plan is for two people to pedal with another two people in the back of the craft.  They will swap places at regular intervals to enable at least 20 miles to be travelled daily. The friends will camp overnight in tents along the route with their support crew. 

Chief Technician Mark Shearn said: “I have a third pedalo which needs a significant amount of repair work, and we’re hoping to convince some local businesses to donate materials. It would be excellent to have three vessels for the day.” 

Despite already being fit, they are under no illusions about how tough the fundraising challenge will be. 

“We liked the idea as it’s daft and a bit comical, but it probably won’t be hilarious when we’re doing it, as I’m sure it’s going to be very challenging,” Jim added. 

The dad-to-be has a biochemistry degree and understands the importance of preventative measures to reduce your risk of breast cancer and other diseases, mentioning that – for example, physical activity can decrease your risk. 

Breast cancer is the most common cancer in the UK.  It is estimated that around a third of cases are preventable. Over 55,000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year. Breast Cancer UK works to prevent breast cancer through education, scientific research, collaboration, and policy change. 

Sadly, not all cases are preventable. Studies have shown that changing your lifestyle can significantly reduce your chances of getting breast cancer.  

What’s next for the group?

Over the next few weeks, the group will have a few practice runs. They will use these to see how far they can get in half-a-day and work out where the overnight stays will be. The team intends to up their cycling and leg endurance training to prepare for the event.  

The team hopes people will follow them along the route via social media to help keep them motivated, and they have the full support of their Group Captain, Claire O’Grady. 

With £1,000 already raised, Jim and the team are already well on the way to hitting their £5,000 target. To donate, visit their JustGiving page, and to follow the event check out their social media page here @RAFBrizeNorton and @royalairforcebrizenorton. 

Updated: THE ROUTE

Sat 1 Jul: Boats moved to the Marina PM.

Sun 2 Jul: New Inn opens at 0800. Depart the Marina at 0945 to New Inn for a proper see-off around 1000. Lechlade to Northmoor 18.5m

Mon 3 Jul: Northmoor-Culham 22.7m

Tue 4 Jul: Culham-Mapledurham 23.4m

Wed 5 Jul: Mapledurham-Hurley 19.4m

Thu 6 Jul: Hurley-Old Windsor 19.5m

Fri 7 Jul: Old Windsor-Teddington 20.5m

Fancy doing your own challenge? Download our fundraising pack full of ideas and inspiration.



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