In 2017, a St Andrews cyclist set himself a unique challenge to raise awareness for the MS Society Scotland.
And Richard Sanderson had a very personal reason for doing so.
His sister Emma was diagnosed with relapsing-remitting multiple sclerosis ten years ago, when she was aged just 19.
It left Richard, who is a software developer, feeling rather helpless.
So for the last two years, he’s jumped on his bike to raise funds and awareness for the charity that has helped his sister.
His efforts have raised almost £3000 so far.
Now in its third year, the MS Society Scotland is hoping readers in Fife will join his 200 mile Big MS Ride, which has a rather unique twist.
Richard (33) explained: “We will start and finish at the arch in St Andrews, touring 200 miles across the Fife countryside, tracing out the letters MS along the way.
“When I was looking for something to do to raise awareness, I came across other people who had traced out shapes and letters for charities.
“I wondered if it would be possible in Fife and, luckily, the roads allowed me to do it.
“For the last couple of years, it’s just been me and a couple of friends who have ridden part or all of the route.
“This year, we’re hoping other people will join us, either for a small section, the M or the S or all of it!
“It’s all about raising awareness and funds so the more the merrier and if people want to get some extra sponsorship that would be an added bonus.”
Tackling the whole ride is not for the faint-hearted.
Richard regularly cycles to and from work in Dundee, having taken up the sport five years ago to help with his fitness.
A member of Kinross Cycling Club, he also takes part in Audax UK events and a number of long distance events including the 85 mile Etape Caledonia.
Even so, the 200 mile cycle is still a challenge.
He said: “We start around 5am and don’t finish until 8pm or 9pm.
“You have to set quite a high average pace to get it done in one day.
“You do get to a point when you just want to reach the finish line; it’s usually towards the end when the temperature starts to fall.
“When you do finish, though, there’s a real sense of exhilaration and achievement.
“And there’s an extra feel-good factor when you know that you’ve done it for a good cause and have hopefully raised some awareness and funds along the way.
“My sister was really young when she was diagnosed and it was a shock for the whole family.
“It was a scary time as we didn’t know what was going on. You feel helpless because you can’t do much to help.
“Emma, who lives in Stockton close to my parents, has good and bad days now but she’s really pleased that I’m doing this.
“It’s something that I can do to help in some small way.”
Richard moved to Scotland to go to university, then met his wife Gemma and decided to stay.
He is supported every mile of the Big Ride route by Gemma, who is not a cyclist but is happy to help.
Richard said: “She’s not hugely into cycling but she does support us.
“She meets us at every pit-stop and is available at the other end of the phone if we need anything.
“She also liaises with all the cafes along the route and keeps my social media posts up to date.”
The Big MS Ride will take place on Saturday, May 11, this year and Richard is hoping readers will sign up.
He added: “A couple of friends are joining me again this year but we’d love it if people could join us for the morning, afternoon or the whole ride if they fancy it.
“If they don’t have a bike and just want to cheer us on, that would be great too.”
The 200 mile route will be done in several stages, leaving the Westport Arch in St Andrews at 5am with a breakfast stop at 8am at the White Chimneys Tearoom in Pitscottie.
The lunch stop will be at Heaven Scent in Milnathort at noon, then Berryfields Tearoom in Abernethy at 4pm, before heading for the finish line around 8pm at the Westport Arch, St Andrews.
Richard added: “We stop for around 45 minutes each time to refuel.
“You don’t feel guilty about having a slice of cake because you know you’re going to cycle it off!
“We’d love it if people came along to join the ride or to cheer us on.”
MS Society Scotland’s Fife branch supports the ride
More than 11,000 people in Scotland have MS which is one of the highest rates in the world.
Morna Simpkins, director of MS Society Scotland, said: “We really appreciate everything Richard is doing.
“It’s an amazing challenge and we wish him and all the other riders the best of luck.
“MS is unpredictable and different for everyone and raising awareness and funds is crucial for the work we do.”
MS Society Scotland’s Fife branch offers support and services locally.
Amy Newton, branch co-ordinator, is alerting members to the ride so that they can go along and cheer Richard on.
She said: “More than 800 people have been diagnosed with MS in Fife.
“Unfortunately, most of our members won’t be able to take part in the ride but I’m sure many of our members will want to cheer the cyclists on.”
Thanks to fundraisers and the Adam Smith Foundation, the Fife branch has recently been able to offer a scholarship at Fife College to a student with MS.
The Fife branch also offers support and advice to anyone diagnosed with MS. And in partnership with Circle of Comfort, it provides a range of complementary therapies.
The group has also purchased a wheelchair for Beach Wheelchairs in St Andrews.
And it hosts monthly meetings – on the last Thursday of every month in Brycedale Church, Kirkcaldy, at 6pm and the first Friday of the month at 11am in Scooniehill Community Centre, St Andrews.
The branch is also launching burlesque chair dancing taster sessions from 11.30am to 1pm in Veronica Hall, Kirkcaldy, on May 4 and Dairsie Hall, Cupar, on May 11.
To find out more, call Amy on 07477 905722, email email@example.com or visit www.facebook.com/MSSocietyFife.