Meet the 3am riser who cycles Ipswich in the dead of night
At 3am every day, when everyone else is fast asleep, Alex Pilgrim’s day is just beginning.
Because while all others are tucked up in bed, the 22-year-old is pulling on his cycle helmet so he can ride around the deserted streets of Ipswich in the dead of night.
The soon-to-be Royal Marine needed to find time to train for a mammoth 700-mile ride he is due to embark on from Monday, July 27 in a bid to raise money for Muscular Dystrophy UK in honour of his father, who has the condition.
However, his 12-hour shifts as a tug driver at Felixstowe docks leave little time for exercise, as he has to be on site by 7am and doesn’t leave until 7pm.
So, being a morning person, he decided to fit in his training before work - which means setting out for a ride of about two hours every day at 3.30am, so he can be back in enough time to get ready and travel to work.
Alex, who is doing the ride with his school friend David Hooley, admits that getting up well before the crack of dawn is tough.
“Every day, I want to hit the snooze button,” he said.
However, his incredible discipline means he sets himself a target of getting out of bed within 10 seconds of hearing his loud alarm clock.
To give him that little bit of motivation, the smell of coffee brewed the night before is wafting through his flat in Wherstead Road, Ipswich - and with a hot drink and a teaspoon of honey, he is all set for the day ahead.
Wearing a hi-vis jacket and bright lights on his bike, he admits his route passing places such as Ipswich Waterfront, Pinewood, Westerfield and Kesgrave in darkness is eerily quiet.
“Going through town at that time of the morning, there is a different feel to the place,” he said, adding that there are certainly “no cars to worry about”.
Having burned well over 1,000 calories, by 5.30am Alex has already done more of a workout than many of us manage in a week.
However, he then returns home for a bit of toast and some cereal ahead of a full day at work.
Understandably, he is hungry again by 10am and says he gets a few strange looks for making himself some pasta at work before lunch - but it is enough to sustain him for the rest of the day.
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He is in bed by 9pm so he can get enough sleep and be ready to do it all again the next day. Even on days off, he will still wake up at 4am to go on his early morning ride.
Alex admits that even his mum “calls me crazy for doing it”, but that he likes his morning routine.
“I think it’s important for people to wake up that little bit earlier,” he said.
“You get more hours in the day and it’s a different feeling when you know you’re the first one awake.”
Alex, whose entry to the Royal Marines this year was delayed because the coronavirus crisis, was said to be “bored of lockdown” when he messaged his friends on WhatsApp in April to suggest the ride from Ipswich to Scafell Pike and back.
The challenge also includes scaling the mountain itself on foot, as well as travelling through three national parks.
Most of his friends laughed and dismissed the idea – apart from pal David, also 22, who agreed to join Alex on the challenge once lockdown restrictions were lifted.
Alex said the charity “is a cause close to our hearts” because his father, Carl, has limb girdle muscular dystrophy.
“We hope to raise as much money as possible,” he said.
“I’ve done quite a lot of training and I’m feeling confident.”
Dan McNally, head of regional development at Muscular Dystrophy UK, said: “We’re so grateful to David and Alex for taking on this amazing challenge, which will help us to continue supporting people with muscle-wasting conditions.
“Cycling 700 miles over 10 days is no mean feat, and we are hugely impressed by this effort.”
Alex is not the only early riser with an impressive self-discipline in Ipswich.
Teenage swimmer Sam Perkins, who competes at national level, gets up at 4.20am and has a light breakfast of a couple of crumpets or some bagels before heading to Crown Pools for training at 5am - because he believes it will make all the difference to reaching his Olympic dreams.
To sponsor Alex and David, visit their JustGiving page.
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