Having ridden in every edition of the 100 Miles Of Nowhere cycling fundraiser, teenager Lauren Varty can't wait to jump back on her static bike and cover the 160km kilometers on Friday 24 June as a celebration of what this project has achieved in a short space of time.
The bubbly Westville woman, who is pursuing her dream of becoming a vet with a first year B.Sc at the University of Pretoria, was instrumental in establishing The Cows in KwaZulu-Natal, a group of passionate athletes who take part in popular endurance sporting events to raise funds and awareness for Childhood Haematology and Oncology Clinics (CHOC) for children battling cancer.
Varty will be returning home for the varsity holidays and will ride the 160 kilometers at the Westville branch of the Cadence Cycle Performance Centres, one of five in KwaZulu-Natal being used for the fundraiser, along with two in Gauteng and one in Cape Town added in this year to make the project national.
With a target set of R250 000 for the project, Varty is excited and humbled by what started on a much smaller scale in 2011.
"I was only fourteen at the time!" she recalls. "We had just joined The Cows after the 94.7 Cycle tour, and we decided to do a version of the 100 Miles Of Nowhere that was run by American blogger The Fat Cyclist.
"We had to break it up into four 40km sections to make sure I could handle it! Eight of us first did 40 kilometres in five kilometre laps on the Durban beachfront, then we went to Hillcrest and did 1,5km laps, then to a cul-de-sec where we did a hundred 400 meter laps, and finally we did 40 kilometres on indoor trainers at Rose Owen's house," she recalls.
Despite her full schedule of school commitments, the former St Mary's pupil has done every one of the 100 Miles Of Nowhere rides since then, even managing to squeeze it into her matric year last year.
"It was just before our Matric trials exams! Luckily I managed to prioritise my time wisely and got through both of them okay!" says Varty.
Last year Varty and her mother Iris Varty rode the full 160km ride on static bikes in the oversized furry suits that The Cows have become famous for, making the already arduous ride a lot tougher. But Varty won't have it any other way.
"Sure it was tough. But in the bigger scheme of things, what we were going through was nowhere near as tough as what the kids battling cancer have to go through every day. If we can inspire the children to push through by seeing us struggling through our 100 Miles Of Nowhere ride then I am really excited," she said.
"Luckily both my mom and I are really stubborn, so we got through the tough times together without much trouble. We are a really good team and can battle through, and it feels like we are in sync!," said Varty.
"The ride in the furry Cow suit will take us anything between five and seven hours. It is really hot, but it is mostly a mental challenge," she said.
As a teenager determined to make a difference to the charity that she stumbled on in 2011, she is in awe at how the 100 Miles Of Nowhere project has grown in such a short space of time.
"I heard that the target of R250 000 has been set for the ride this year. To be able to aim at a figure like that, and to know that it is now happening nationally at all eight Cadence centres is really humbling," said Varty.
Entries are limited at each of the Cadence centres and are allocated on a first-come-first-served basis by booking on the event website, www.100milesofnowhere.co.za
Venues: Cadence Cycle Performance Centres in Durban North, Westville, Hillcrest, Ballito and Pietermaritzburg in KwaZulu-Natal, Bryanston and Wapadrand in Gauteng as well as Tyger Valley in Cape Town.
Date: Friday, 24 June 2016