We caught up with Sally Orange, Founder and Team Leader of Mind over Matter (MoM) – the first group of eight wounded, injured and sick (WIS) servicewomen and civilians to take on a 3,070-mile cycle between the west and east coasts of America.
The teamwork and determination required to complete this incredible endeavour helped the women to rediscover their focus and self-confidence; and in doing so, inspire others like themselves who suffer from mental and physical health challenges.
Read on to learn more about the cycle challenge, what sparked the idea of MoM, and Sally’s thoughts on the expedition:
‘For some time, I had had a dream about finding a means through which to support and inspire others to overcome and embrace their own journey of recovery from ill health, through participation in physical challenges. I am proud to say that after over a year of hard work, commitment and dedication, alongside the unwavering support of Leadership Challenges, this dream has been fully realised.
The ongoing healing process with my own ill health has often left me feeling isolated and without a sense of community or belonging. Although I’ve taken on the challenge of several endurance events in the past, these have mostly been as a solo participant or competitor. Despite having met so many fantastic people along my journey, I have often found myself longing to feel a part of something bigger.
It is from this place that I conceived the idea of the Mind over Matter team, the first all-female team of WIS cyclists in its 38-year history to enter the gruelling Race Across America (RAAM), widely acknowledged to be the world’s toughest cycle challenge. A vital element of this endeavour was also that data collected prior, during, and following the event would be used in conjunction with the University of South Wales to conduct research into the long-term impact on one’s mental health of participating in a physical challenge.
Our endeavour commenced in California on 15th June 2019 and saw the team cycle day and night for 3,070 miles across 12 states, with 190,000 feet of climbing in extreme temperatures, before reaching Maryland, just 8 days and 12 minutes later.
Like myself, the majority of the team (both cyclists and support crew), have at some point in their lives encountered severe challenges with their health, be that physical, psychological, or both. You could say that we are somewhat broken, but certainly not beaten. In taking on this challenge, we wanted to show that out of hardship can come growth and a sense of belonging. By working together, we were able to demonstrate that with commitment, determination and drive, significant goals can be achieved. Words cannot express how proud I am of the team, all of whom gave above and beyond what I could ever have expected.
Although all team members participated in the same event, the challenges and successes they encountered were personal to each of them. One of the main purposes of the endeavour was to test individual limitations in order to provide focus and develop self-confidence. By pushing themselves beyond their comfort zone, the team have demonstrated that they are truly capable of anything; and this, in turn, will serve to improve their personal growth and development for the future.
The aim of this endeavour was never to impress anyone, but rather to inspire others and raise awareness of invisible health conditions. By cycling across America, we set out to prove that an individual’s age or mental and physical condition should not hold them back, however big or small their challenge may be.’