The Road to Respair : Meaningful Miles

By Nick Frendo

The OED has “respair”, both as a noun and verb, meaning the return of hope after a period of despair.


The word respair is an old English word, no longer in use, but for me personally it couldn’t be more relevant right now. Over the last few years I’ve battled with my mental health, in 2017 it lead to two suicide attempts. I reached a crisis point and couldn’t see any way out, full of self loathing, I felt lost with no hope and in a foreign country with no friends or family, I’d isolated myself and could see no other alternative than to end my life.


It’s now 2021 and I’m in a very different place. To say it’s been a bumpy ride over the last four years is an understatement. I’ve had many dark days and relapses, but I’ve learnt how to cope, I have people in my life now who understand how to listen, not judge or think they have the answer, just listen. For the first time I can remember I feel confident, content and even positive, not things I’ve felt for a long time.


After my two attempts I knew I couldn’t work through things on my own, I tried that and clearly it didn’t work. I needed help. I never really knew what was wrong with me but I’d known for a long time I wasn’t happy, not that I knew (or know) what happiness was or is. I now think happiness is a fleeting moment, not a constant and I’m cool with that. I spent a year getting help, no-one knew what I’d been through or done, even my closest friends. My life changed and improved, but I still had a cloud over me, I still felt ashamed about what I’d tried to do and didn’t want anyone to think I was weak, I also now know that people wouldn't and didn’t, it’s not weak to be struggling under the pressures life can bring.


I took the decision in 2018 to do something. I wanted to raise money for a mental health charity to help others. I spoke to Movember and planned a ride from Biarritz to Venice 2800 km across the Pyrenees, Alps and Dolomites, through France, Switzerland and Italy with 48,000 metres of climbing. Planning the ride was easy, it was my job as a tour guide. Telling people why I was riding was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I sat down with family and friends and my girlfriend who I’d only recently met and had to tell them all what I’d been going through. Finally I had to out myself on social media, my feed went from selling a lifestyle and holidays to me talking about my mental health and suicide attempts, it was finally about being honest with people around me and more importantly myself.


Since 2018 I’ve worked as a mental health ambassador for Movember and shared my journey. I’ve also completed various challenges like 8 passes in the Dolomites in a day, on World Sucide Prevention Day and ridden 4382 km in March 2020, the number is the number of men in the UK that took their own lives in 2017.


I recently set out on a Meaningful Miles journey. I decided after a year of Covid and lockdowns to ride and share a coffee or conversation with someone to help reduce the sense of loneliness after what can only be described as a shit year all round. Cycling has enabled me to meet loads of people and share a message of hope. I’ve started as a platform to help others share their journey, a platform for people to contribute to, a community of cyclists sharing thoughts and ideas to help others.


I want my rides to count for something. I don’t ride for numbers, I don’t care about distances or power, cycling for me is about experiences and creating memories. I’m hoping I can provide people with something positive and I want to encourage as many people as possible to do the same.


To help with my efforts and to spread more awareness and reach as many people as possible I’ve teamed up with Hunt. After a number of conversations it became clear that Hunt shared my values and wanted to help with my efforts to help others. Over the next few months I hope to continue to raise money and support a number of charities and thanks to the kindness of those at Hunt I should be able to continue and make my miles meaningful.


You can follow my journey over on Instagram or on the ASCND.CC website


April 08, 2021 — James Finch
Tags: road/cx