Breaking the cycle

About 30 ladies took part in the bike ride from Brisbane to Meandarra.
About 30 ladies took part in the bike ride from Brisbane to Meandarra. MRP Images

While many a person may say they'd go to the ends of the earth for their friends, would you cycle over 400km with them?

It sounds like an amazing feat, yet this is exactly what mums Keely Mancini and Rebecca East were inspired to do last December.

"We attended a fundraiser last December out at Meandarra [about three hours west of Toowoomba] for the Heart of Australia," Keely explains.

"We listened to Dr Rolf Gomes speak and were inspired by his passion and determination to get the Heart Bus on the road.

"Things he said just resonated with us - we both have friends and family living in the country and the service of the Heart Bus made so much sense."

The five-hour drive home found these two women excitedly making plans for a massive cycling journey to raise funds for heart health in rural areas.

Late August found over 30 women ready to spend three days riding 415km from Brisbane to Meandarra, including a climb of over 3000 metres over the Range.

But why cycling?

"We love it, and we also wanted to focus on our community," Keely says.

"Over the years many women have commented to both of us at different times how great it is that we participate in races and do all of this training and physical activity, so we wanted to be able to bring these things together.

"Over the years we have formed some great friendships so, as well as the racing aspect, there is a very strong social aspect for both of us with cycling."

Keely Mancini and Rebecca East led a cycle ride of over 400km to raise funds for rural and regional heart health.
Keely Mancini and Rebecca East led a cycle ride of over 400km to raise funds for rural and regional heart health. MRP Images

Keely and Bec have as much a sport-related background to their friendship as they do a family-related one.

"We met in 2010 at our local gym, where we were both training for a marathon in different cities," Keely recalls.

"We started running together with another group of marathon runners.

"Running drew us together but we also have children of the same age and our youngest attended the same kindy, so we started seeing each other more regularly."

Sadly, good family friends of Keely and Bec lost a mate, Graeme Bridle, suddenly to unexpected heart failure last year.

To support their grieving and shocked friends, the mums went out to the rural property of Uralla in Meandarra, and attended the fundraiser event held in memory of Graeme.

It was here the ladies learnt that if Graeme had been able to get a check-up, his heart condition would have been found and he may still have been here today.

And so, Girls Got Heart was born - and from that, the cycling event, the Heart of Uralla.

The camaraderie and support between all the riders was exceptional - it was so much more than we ever imagined it would be and everything that we had hoped for."   - Keely Mancini

"When we arrived home from Meandarra last December, the first people we spoke to were our husbands," Keely remembers.

"We have had a few crazy ideas in the past which they roll their eyes at, but this time they both instantly thought the ride was a good idea."

It was this support that gave Keely and Bec the motivation they needed to keep going with the plan.

"Throughout the last eight months they have had to pick up the pieces at home with the kids and everything else, as we have worked to pull it all together," Keely says.

Keely's husband Andrew originally comes from Longreach, so had a very real understanding of life in the country and how hard it can be to get to health specialists.

"With family still living in rural Queensland, there is a very invested interest in Girls Got Heart, and we have had huge support from the Longreach community."

As well as aiming to raise $55,000 for heart health in rural communities, Bec and Keely wanted to show other ladies that it was possible to achieve the cycling goal by following a simple but consistent training program and by having the support of a group.

"This is one reason why we chose to be a women-only event," Keely says.

"Women can often put themselves last and feel a sense of guilt when taking up too much time for themselves, [but] focusing on a good cause and raising money for something so important makes it easier."

Not only did every one of the riders finish, but Girls Got Heart has been able to raise $119,000 for heart health.

"There are so many stories and feel good moments that it's hard to pick, but a couple of standouts would be seeing one of the girls who had not ridden further than 40kms before March this year climb the Range, still smiling like she had done through every training session with the most positive attitude," Keely says.

"Another wonderful part of the ride was to see one of the girls who was initially concerned about the challenges of a three-day event relax more and more each kilometre travelled.

"She was as strong as an ox with an attitude to match, and it was great to see how far she had come in training, and how much she enjoyed it."

There would be a million more stories to tell, but overall Keely and Bec are over the moon.

"The camaraderie and support between all the riders was exceptional - it was so much more than we ever imagined it would be and everything that we had hoped for."
 



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