14 April 2015

Spinning to change lives

Guest blog by Nia Dowd.

Earlier this year Nia Dowd took on a personal endurance challenge to complete 12 hours non-stop pedalling on a spin bike to help end FGM. Here is her story.

You know the feeling when you watch the film Titanic, you know the boat is going to hit the iceberg, but there is nothing that you can do and then you have to watch people suffer for another hour and three quarters until the boat goes down and Rose chucks Jack off the door that they are lying on. Sorry if I have just ruined a film you have never seen. I felt like that about Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). I was hearing terrible things and feeling completely helpless. It made me upset. I would read articles and get angry. 

I studied and trained to be a teacher in London and had witnessed first hand how FGM was affecting young girls. I knew I had to do something, but I didn't know what to do. I have always loved going to the gym and I knew if I was going to raise money that I would do it best through exercise and endurance so in October 2014 I decided to do a twelve hour session on a spin bike to raise money for 28 too many, I contacted them and I spoke to my gym, the Marriott, St Pierre Hotel in Chepstow, and they said I could use a bike and they would be happy to help.  I set up my just giving page and started to raise awareness on my Facebook, the money started rolling in my target was £500.

In November I damaged a disk in my neck and had nerve damage and loss of feeling in my left hand, scary when your left handed and you use your hands all day. I was signed off work for three weeks and was told I could lose the use off my left hand. I had to stop training. 

I started my serious training started on the 18th of December I did four hours on the bike. Between then and my bike ride I did another 21 hours on the bike in total. Then before I knew it the 24th of January came, the day if my bike ride. I was excited but focussed on the cause and knew that this was the day I could make a difference. So at 6 o'clock in the morning I started peddling. I had eaten lots of carbohydrates the days leading up to the race so had the energy to complete the challenge. I had visitors throughout the day in form of friends and family, they cheered me on and gave me support. The first six hours flew by, on the seventh, eighth and ninth hour I began to struggle, mentally, I felt weak, I was struggling. I had to dig deep and remember why I was doing this, why I was sitting on this super uncomfortable seat. It was simple, for the one girl every ten seconds that is affected by FGM. By ten hours I could see the end. My partner Scott and my sister, Ffion, joined me for the last hour. The lactic acid was popping in my leg muscles at this point every rotation of the pedals was making my legs, hips and ankles ache.  At six I finished and I could hardly stop my legs from turning the pedals. I could not walk properly but it was worth every second as I have now raised over £1200. I would do it again tomorrow. One step at a time I will do all I can to help end FGM. 

If you want to take action, you can learn more about 28 Too Many's work to end FGM and how you can help at www.28toomany.org. You can donate to support our research and campaigns and follow us on Facebook for updates on the global movement to end FGM.