A survivor of an horrific quad bike accident is celebrating her recovery by taking part in a 48-hour charity cycle challenge for a second time.
Melanie Simmonds suffered serious injuries while on holiday in Greece in 2010, after driving off a 60 foot-high cliff.
The 30-year-old was lucky to escape with her life, but took months to recover before realising that a challenge like the London Marathon, which she had been interested in doing, might be out of her reach. However, after taking a job at the Halow learning disability charity after recovering from her injuries, she learned of the Halow 250, an annual challenge in which cyclists set off from Putney before riding 250 miles in 48 hours, travelling into France and eventually looping back to finish in Guildford.
Miss Simmonds, from Farnborough, completed the challenge last year and said: “It was an amazing experience. I think a lot of people had their doubts that I would be able to complete it, but I just set my mind to it and it was fantastic.
“That is why I’m doing it again this year and hopefully that will inspire other people to test themselves and get involved with the ride.”
Concerns had been raised that she might never walk normally again following the accident. She had been driving the quad bike, with her then-boyfriend riding pillion, when suddenly its steering locked,
She said: “I couldn’t turn and realised that we were just going straight off the cliff. I thought ‘this can’t be it’.
“I think I blocked the rest of it out. In hindsight if I hadn’t been wearing my big camera bag on my back I think I would have been paralysed or worse, as it protected my back.
“The next thing I knew I was lying at the bottom of the cliff, with the bike in the sea and water lapping at my arm.”
Miss Simmonds suffered bad breaks to both of her legs, broke her nose and a finger and had cuts and scratches all over her. Her passenger escaped with a gash to the stomach.
After enduring several different flights and transfers back to England, during which time her legs, which required surgery but had just been stitched up, ‘swelled up alarmingly’.
After surgery it took 14 months for her legs to recover.
She said: “It was so hard, but then I took the job at Halow and they have been fantastic and are an incredible cause. I saw this challenge and thought that was what I would set my mind to. There is no impact, unlike running, so my legs can cope with it. It was an incredible experience and I can’t wait to do it again.”
The Halow organising team is hoping to attract 100 riders for this year’s event, which takes place on May 2 to 4, with a fundraising target of £75,000. So far 56 riders have pledged their support.
Funds will go to Halow’s Building Futures Programme which works with young people to change their lives through planning centred around the individual and working towards better inclusion in their communities..