The first time I speak to Fatima Ahmed, it is by phone and she is walking into a bike shop. I can hear muffled shouts and metal clanking in the background, Ahmed hurriedly explaining that her road bike needs looking at. Does she mean her race bike, I wonder. There isn’t a moment to ask. “Can I call you back?” Yes, yes, I assure her I’ll call at a quieter moment. But quiet moments are few and far between in the life of the 51-year-old road safety manager who is in the process of turning herself into a long-distance adventure cyclist. 

Ahmed is in the thick of preparing for the Pan Celtic Ultra, a self-supported, ultra-endurance bicycle adventure starting on 6 July. She is aiming to complete the ‘short’ route, but don’t be fooled by the name – it’s 1,145 miles (the full is 1,426 miles), beginning on the Isle of Man with a 100-mile, self-navigated night time test. Racers are then ferried at dawn across the Irish Sea to Heysham, Lancashire, making their way through the Lake District before crossing the border into the epic wilderness of Scotland’s west coast and Inner Hebrides. After looping the Isle of Skye, the race cuts across the Scottish mainland and fi nishes in Inverness. It is a gruelling, glorious journey, with riders climbing over 84,000ft (25,600m) in total. There is no hard and fast rule for how long it should take; “you finish when you do,” states the organiser’s website. But if you want to make it to the party, you have 10 days to complete the race.

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