A Norwich City fan is undertaking an epic cycle challenge to raise awareness and funds for mental health and inclusivity.
Matt Colley, known to his friends as 'Colo', aims to cycle through every village in Norfolk and has set himself the ambitious target to complete all 5,000 miles of the challenge by the end of the season.
Ahead of World Mental Health Day on October 10, Matt talked to canaries.co.uk about his #5000colo challenge:
“I was diagnosed with depression as a teenager, and have suffered from depression and anxiety for more than 20 years. For a long time in my adult life I found it difficult to look after myself and get out of bed in the morning,” says the 40-year-old.
“Luckily, I’ve always been blessed with the ability to talk about my emotions and communicate. As I’ve got older, I’ve realised that I should use the skills I have to try and help and support other people, and do anything I can to reach as many people as possible.”
A Norwich City season ticket holder since 2008, Matt took up cycling more regularly over lockdown, finding it the perfect formula to improve his own mental and physical wellbeing.
Following the completion of a 640-mile ride for Sir Norman Lamb’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund in August, he was inspired to set up his own fundraising challenge.
“I’ve lived in the county since I was four. I love Norfolk, and I thought this would be a really nice way to see every corner of the county while helping to get people talking about mental health.”
Matt selected five local organisations who all have a connection to mental health, wellbeing and inclusivity: Norfolk & Waveney Mind, The 12th Man, Norwich Soup Movement, Sir Norman Lamb’s Mental Health and Wellbeing Fund and the Club’s own Community Sports Foundation - and he has set a fundraising target of over £25,000.
With 500 miles already chalked up since he began the challenge in September, the scale of the challenge is starting to hit home.
“I felt like 500 miles a month would be a manageable target to balance with my work, and it just seemed a reasonable figure without it taking over my life. But as it happens, it’s already started to take over my life, in a major way!”
With upwards of 600 villages to tick off, the operational and planning aspect of the challenge is hugely important. With his wife Katie's help, Matt has converted his garage into challenge HQ, complete with a floor-to-ceiling laminated map of Norfolk.
While the first few weeks of the challenge have allowed Matt to tick off many of the villages within a ten-mile radius of his home in Norwich, accessing areas in the further reaches of the county presents more of a logistical problem, with some routes being up to 50 miles away.
“It’s going to get a lot more challenging. The other week I found myself stranded in the pouring rain, seven miles from my car, with a puncture and, as luck would have it, a puncture repair spray that didn’t work. My mum bailed me out in that instance, but I know it’s not sustainable.”
A number of companies have already rallied to support Matt’s campaign, and as the challenge grows he’s hoping he can rely on the support and goodwill of others to help cover expenses such as petrol, taxi costs and the ever-mounting cost of spare tyres and bike maintenance supplies.
But Matt has no regrets: “I’m loving it so far. I’ve learnt so much about the history of the county, and met some lovely people. The support from everyone has been fantastic, and I hope my efforts will make a real difference.”
To get regular updates or make a donation to Matt’s challenge, visit his website here, or follow him at '5000colo' on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.
World Mental Health Day is on October 10th and the charity Mind are asking people to ‘Do one thing’ – this may be reaching out to a friend, taking part in physical exercise, meditating or listening to music in order to look after your own mental health and that of others.
For more information on how to get involved with ‘Do one thing’ on World Mental Health Day see mind.org.uk/wmhd
For more information on the EFL and Mind’s charity partnership visit - https://www.efl.com/-more/all- about-the-efl/official-charity/
If you need support from Mind visit Mind.org.uk for information and advice. You can also talk to Mind via the confidential Infoline on 0300 123 3393 or text 86463.