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Ex-soldier gears up for 2,000 mile Dereham charity cycle effort

09:00 28 February 2013

Mike O

Mike O'Brien (left) is doing a 6 day charity bike marathon at Barrett's Health & Fitness in Dereham. With him, from centre, is gym owner Graham Barrett and Mark Piper, from The Barbers in Dereham, where people can donate money for the charity - Together for Short Lives. Picture: Matthew Usher.

© Archant Norfolk 2013

A former soldier who said he wants to devote his life to charity fundraising will tomorrow start his bid to cycle the equivalent of 2,000 miles in five days.

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Mike O’Brien quit his job as a singer at Butlins to join the army at the time of the 1991 Gulf War, and served in the Gulf, Kosovo, Sierra Leone and Northern Ireland.

The Dereham resident has suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder for two decades, and last December he ran and cycled for 15 hours at Barretts Health and Fitness Gym for the Royal British Legion’s Poppy Appeal.

Now the 39-year-old is limbering up to cycle for five days on an exercise bike outside the gym during the first five days of March.

The money he raises will go to Together for Short Lives, a charity for children with life-threatening or life-changing conditions.

Mr O’Brien said: “The biggest scare for me is that I don’t do as well as I’m expected to.

“I hope I don’t get injured in the process. I am aiming for my goal and if I don’t put 100pc in I will not just be letting myself down, but also this charity which has put its faith in me.

“In an ideal world, if I could do this for a living every single day, I would. I would not want to be paid for it. All I would like is to put a smile on a family’s face and let them know there are people who care about this.”

He said he had already received overwhelming support from businesses he has approached in the town centre.

He has been running 10-12 miles a day, eating red meat and fruit, and training for free at the gym.

Gym owner Graham Barrett said: “It’s a bit like someone doing an ultra marathon when they do 50 miles a day running. He is going to get saddle sore.

“He is not going to be doing it quickly, but he will be pedalling continuously and will not have time to recover.

“The first couple of days might seem easy, but then he is going to suffer and we will see how strong he is mentally.”

Mr O’Brien said he is looking forward to chatting to people and answering their questions as he undertakes the challenge.

Sponsor him outside Barretts Gym at 25a High Street, Dereham, from 9am to 5pm on March 1, 2, 4 and 5, and from 9am to noon on March 3.

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