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Retired Abergavenny headteacher takes on epic cycle challenge for charity

Pictured: Sue and Pam

Two veteran cyclists are proving that age is just a number by cycling from Land’s End to John O’Groats to raise money for the British Heart Foundation (BHF).

Sisters Sue Gotley, aged 78, and Pam Mann, who will turn 80 in July, took on the iconic challenge to help fund the charity’s lifesaving science into heart and circulatory diseases.

Former Abergavenny head teacher Sue, and her sister Pam, set off on 20 May and completed the 1,074 mile trip from the bottom of South-West England all the way to the tip of Scotland on 8 June, covering more than 50 miles a day on their journey.

Pam said: “We decided to take on the challenge to celebrate my 80th birthday and raise money for a fantastic charity in the British Heart Foundation. These sorts of challenges have always appealed to us and we believe that being older doesn’t necessarily mean the adventures have to stop!

“Sue and I have been very close since childhood. This was borne out a few years ago when Sue contracted leukaemia and I became the donor for her life-saving bone marrow transplant. The doctors said our blood could not have been more identical if we’d been twins. When the idea for the ride came up, of course Sue and I wanted to take it on together, as sisters and lifelong friends.

“We’ve had a few tough hills to climb so far and plenty of good old English weather. But Sue and I are having a wonderful time, seeing the country and meeting amazing people, from the hotel proprietor and ironman expert who helped mend Sue’s bike one morning, to the scarecrow Queen Elizabeth II complete with her corgis! We’ve both been passionate about cycling, for health and environmental reasons, and have taken part in a number of bike tours in the past. This ride is certainly one we will never forget!”

Pam and Sue have a personal reason for backing the BHF. In 2021, Pam’s fit and active son Steve suffered a life-threatening heart attack, which has changed their lives forever.

Steve Mann, 54, from Amersham, was out cycling as part of his training for a triathlon when he began to feel unwell. He was taken to Stoke Mandeville Hospital, where he underwent an emergency coronary angiogram. The procedure revealed a blockage in his right coronary artery where a stent was inserted to open the blocked artery.

Over the past year, Steve has overcome many challenges on his road to recovery, both physically and mentally. But seeing his mum Pam and her sister Sue, embark on this challenge to help support the lifesaving research at the BHF has been a huge positive.

Steve said: “What my mum and Sue have done – cycling over 1,000 miles carrying all their gear for the entire trip in their cycle panniers, and especially given their age – is absolutely inspirational.  As a family we couldn’t be prouder of them.”

“For me, the British Heart Foundation has been a beam of light in my darkest moment. Its work is invaluable for so many families, like ours, who’ve had family members suffer from heart and circulatory diseases. They’ve provided so much help and reassurance when we felt at our most vulnerable and afraid.

“That’s why it is so fitting that my mum and Sue are raising money for the BHF.  It would be great if you could support them on their epic journey by donating via their JustGiving page.”

The pair have already raised over £5,300 for the BHF and they now hope with greater awareness about their story, they can boost their total even higher.

Nikki James, Area Fundraising Manager for Wales and Northern Ireland at the British Heart Foundation, said: “This is such an amazing story. The determination of Pam and Sue to take on this epic challenge for Pam’s 80th birthday is truly inspiring. We are so grateful to them for supporting the BHF’s research with this amazing journey.

“It’s fantastic to know that the BHF has been such a support for Steve on his heart journey. For more than 60 years the public’s generosity has funded BHF research that has turned ideas that once seemed like ‘science fiction’ into treatments that save lives every day. But millions of people are still waiting for the next breakthrough”

To donate to Sue and Pam, visit their JustGiving page here: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/pammannandsuegotley