On Friday 27th at 11h30, Peter Marais a graphic design artist and member of the Grace Presbyterian Church, set off from the premises of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church in Garsfontein to ride his bicycle as far as possible in 24 hours. Twenty Four hours later on Saturday Peter and James Ross-Marsh (the head boy of Willowridge High School who rode with him for 16 hours) finished their ride in a carnival atmosphere at the tri-annual fête of Emmanuel and Grace Presbyterian congregations. Peter rode 480km.

Every three years Emmanuel and Grace Presbyterian congregations (who share a building until Grace Congregation can buy land and build their own sanctuary) have a Fête “fun-raising” day.   “We have loads of fun and hopefully generate some funds along the way” said Theo Groeneveld, the pastor of the two congregations.

Peter, a veteran professional cyclist, was wondering how he could make a contribution to the fête, when he had the idea of doing a 24 hour cycle. He planned  a 44km circuit on the Lynnwood Cullinan Boskop road loop and began organising for friends and colleagues to sponsor him and ride with him. “I felt that this was something I could do for God’s glory,” said Peter.

Doing long distances on a bicycle is nothing new to Peter, but he admits that the longest time he has spent in the saddle was about 8 hours. He was about to exceed that in a big way. Fortunately there was a lot of support and Peter received sponsorship from FIT (a supplements company), Velo Cycle Club (who provided a following vehicle) and the Boschkop Police Station who provided a secure place for cyclists and assistants to park their vehicles and checked up on the cyclists while they did their night loops. Liz-Mare Lusardi at My Diet Clinic also gave some much needed expert advice on Peter’s nutritional requirements during the ride.

The most significant support came in the form of those who volunteered to drive the support vehicle and cycle with Peter. Of the 12 laps that Peter did, there was only half a lap that he rode alone. Friends and members of the congregation rode laps with Peter and broke the monotony of being alone in the saddle. The rider who spent the most time riding with Peter was James Ross-Marsh who rode from 18h00 on Friday night to the end of the challenge at 11h30 on Saturday. James heard about the ride from a friend who attends at Peter’s church.

The ride Peter did was not the easiest possible route, the route profile indicates that they climbed 380m every loop and had to contend with a stiff wind on Friday afternoon and on Saturday morning. Fortunately the evening stretch was windless and not too cold except when they dropped into the Swavelrivier’s valley near the Boschkop police station.

Peter stopped for about 4 minutes every two hours to take on food and drinks and to allow the support vehicle drivers to change over and new cyclists to join him and then he would get going again. At about 4am he was hit with diarrhoea and took a 45 minute break to allow the medication he had taken to work. Then he was back on the bike.

Peter also received assistance in the form of the prayers of members of both congregations who received sms updates of his progress until he finished on Saturday morning. He and James arrived just after 11h30 to a hero’s welcome at the fête and there was hardly a dry eye among those gathered there as the minister reminded the congregation that Peter had set out to do this ride for God’s glory.

Was it worth it? Donations are still coming in and Peter has made a significant contribution to the life and work of the two congregations who are involved in outreach in various ways in the local community and beyond, but more significantly Peter has demonstrated to young people that faith and courage go hand in hand and that one’s life can be lived with purpose.

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