A man who has never cycled long distances before is among a group of volunteers travelling to the Hajj on their bikes for charity.
The Tour De Hajj (TDH) challenge for Penny Appeal will see the group cycle from London to Makkah to complete the Hajj and in process raise £500,000 for charity.
The money raised is aiming to fund a model village consisting of schools, places of worship and a water well in four countries – Pakistan, Sri Lanka, South Africa and Uganda.
The group are due to set off after Eid and after Jummah (Friday prayers) on 7 June from the East London Mosque and set to arrive in Madinah on 2 August.
The 56-day journey over 4000 miles will take in 17 countries with the cyclists hoping to complete 75 miles a day.
Shahzad Akber of Blackburn who is not a regular cyclist will be joined by Junaid Afzal of Slough, Tahir Akhtar of Maidenhead, Safdar Akhtar of Maidenhead, Tahir Dad of Slough, Mohsin Arif of Slough and Shafiq Ahmed of Maidenhead.
Speaking on behalf of the group Junaid Afzal said, “I met Waseem who joined me at work. He was a cyclist and said ‘My dream is to cycle to Hajj’. At first didn’t think much of it but over the weeks the more I thought about it the more I wanted to do it.
“It started from a dream. I said to myself before going to sleep if it’s the first thing I think about when I wake up then I’m going try my level best to Insha’Allah make this happen. Forget waking up I didn’t get any sleep thinking about the project. The rest is history and here we are.”
The team of eight riders will be aided by two support drivers and one media representative. The group started training in January and lead rider Tahir has given a target of 100 miles for participants.
Junaid said, “As the weather gets better and days get longer we will just be adding more mileage and increase three days to four days training at least.
“Ramadan training – we are actually looking forward to it. We will ride for about 60-90 minutes before the fast opens.
“Our aim is to cover at least 1500 miles of hardcore training, pushing ourselves to the limit and 10,000 feet of elevation.”
They will take on some gruelling terrain through France, Germany, Switzerland, Lietchtenstien, Austria, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Kosovo, Bulgaria, Greece, Turkey, Egypt and eventually on to the dessert plains of Saudi Arabia.
Junaid added, “We want the public to change their thought process. We want them to not aspire to make a living but to aspire to make a change.
“To show them anything is possible through belief in god, hard work, consistency and a never give up attitude. If you believe you can do it then you are half way there.
“Donation and sponsorship are welcome and people can follow us, show love, spread the message and keep us in their prayers which costs nothing.”