A remarkable man who suffered a heart attack just two years ago is preparing for the challenge of his life – to cycle 2,000 miles from Burnley to Corfu.
Former soldier and police officer John Wilson (53) had to be airlifted to hospital by the RAF in 2009 after collapsing on Scafell Pike in the Lake District.
The shock sent the father-of-four into a spiral of depression, but help from the British Heart Foundation and Healthy Lifestyles’ team at Burnley’s St Peter’s Centre, has led to John’s ambitious challenge.
The BHF, which John will be raising money for, believe his heart attack was triggered by stress.
In 2008 he was knocked unconscious in an attack at London’s Victoria Station while serving in the British Transport Police.
John, who moved to Burnley in 2009 after meeting wife Shirley, said: “I have always been very fit which I why I was so shocked when I suffered the heart attack.
“It transpired the heart attack was down to stress. I had Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder from the assault and had to give up my job as a police officer.
“Since the heart attack I have had so much help from the BHF I wanted to give something back, but I also want to inspire other people that you can come back from a traumatic experience.”
John will cycle from the BHF shop in Burnley to Birmingham and onto Dover before crossing to France where he will stop to lay a wreath at the grave of Shirley’s great uncle, George Bradley, who died while serving with the Accrington pals during the First World War.
He will then cycle through France, over the Alps and into Italy before catching a ferry to Corfu where Shirley will be waiting – hopefully with a beer.
“Shirley and I got engaged in Corfu so it is a very special place for us both.
“I’ve estimated the ride will cover 2,029 miles over 34 days.
“I will be camping out for most of it but will treat myself to hotels on a few days.”
In the meantime, John is studying on a gym instructors course.
Last year he raised money for Pendleside Hospice by completing the 170-mile coast to coast cycle challenge, the Ian Hesketh Memorial Duathlon and Pennine 10K.
He said: “The Corfu ride will be the biggest challenge of my life, but I’ve proved to people that you can overcome setbacks and lead an active and happy lifestyle.”
The whole challenge is being filmed by the Media Course at Accrington and Rossendale College for entry into the Pendle Film Festival.