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Cycling from Oxford to Tehran

This June, Iraj, one of our fantastic supporters is taking on the challenge to cycle from Oxford to Tehran!

This cycling challenge is around 5500 kilometres (3500 miles) and should take 2 to 3 months to complete. After crossing the Channel, Iraj’s route will pass through France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Austria, Hungry, Serbia, Bulgaria, Turkey and finally Iran.

Iraj is busy training for the challenge and already managed to raise an incredible £897 for Oxfordshire Mind! A big thank you from all of us!

Read Iraj’s story below:

Dear all,

Since completing my first cycling event, London to Oxford in 2015, it has been my dream to cycle from Oxford to Tehran.

Over the past 6 years I have been looking for the “right” time, to be free from work, sorting out other commitments in life to enable me to start this journey. However, we never know what life has instore for us on each corner, even for a person as fit and active like me!

In March 2018, I felt unwell. It felt like something was going on inside my brain. After a week of scans and tests, the doctors couldn’t find anything wrong so I was given some pain killers for few days and was asked to rest.

On 11th of March 2018 I went through an episode of hallucination and unconsciousness, I was taken by ambulance to the neurology department of John Radcliffe Hospital. Something unknown was going wrong inside my brain and my mind! To prevent further damage to my brain, I was put into an induced coma. No one knew if I would wake up
again. I was held between life and death with no recollection of what was happening around me. Miraculously, on 21 of March, the first day of spring and Iranian New Year, I woke up and the first thing I asked my doctor was if I could go for my dream cycling to Iran by the end of August (2018)! And the answer was: “Are you mad? No way, just have a rest and recover”.

The specialists and doctors couldn’t come to any concrete conclusions as to why any of this had happened and according to my consultant my sudden illness remained a mystery for the whole department.

Determined to continue living a healthy life, I left the hospital much calmer, less stressed and rushing to do the “stuff” with a different attitude towards life. I had experienced my death and how that would look.

I realised the important thing was the memories we leave behind for our love ones and people we know and how they would remember us. Just live our life fully with no harm to others and no regret and how our mental health is important not only to us but to the future generations and the society as a whole.

I had started studying psychology a little before I fell ill, mostly for self development and insight as well as help and support others and make a difference. After my recovery I decided to expand my studies further towards [counselling] in order to be able to dedicate the rest of my life helping people with mental health issues. I am at the beginning of this journey.

Cycling has helped me with my mental health journey. When I ride, I feel as free as a bird and my mind is calmer and more focused.

The first time that I rode a bicycle, I was 9 years old and in year 3 at primary school. My father promised that if my mum gave birth to a boy, he would buy me a bicycle! He had a 24” Raleigh bicycle which he would ride to work, carrying everything from his heavy work tools, to groceries in shopping baskets and even to carrying me and my siblings around as the means of transport. One morning while my mum was in hospital, I was sitting outside of our house and saw him coming on his bike carrying a brand-new bicycle on his shoulder. The journey from town to our house was at least 6 kilometres. He had carried the bike all that way. His dream of having another son had come true; my mum had given birth to my little brother and I had my lovely green Hercules bicycle, made all the way in England, as my present! I treasured that bike for 6 years, but one day it was stolen from my high school. I had locked it up but it had been taken while I was in the classroom. I walked the 6 kilometres home, carrying the key in my hand. Though my first beautiful green bicycle had been stolen, my love for the freedom and adventures of riding a bicycle could never be taken away.

I would also like to encourage others to see that age is not an obstacle; you just have to be active and have a healthy mind and body. We need to change our lifestyle by being active and keep fit in order to live beautiful lives. After being released from hospital, it took me 3 months of physiotherapy to fully recover and once again to join my Oxford Cycling Club and ride our regular Sundays. Three years later, finally at the age of 67, I feel I am ready to start my journey in June 2021.

Although I am going on this journey for personal reasons and to tick it off of my bucket list, I feel that as human-beings we are all interconnected to the universe and each other; so whatever we do, even at a personal level, has an impact on everyone around us. This is why I would like to connect this personal dream, goal and activity to a good cause. I would like to invite anyone who is able, to join me on this journey by making donations to [Oxfordshire] Mind; a great charity close to my heart doing incredible work to raise awareness and improve services for mental health.

Mental health is becoming even more important than physical health because it is often hidden or less obvious than an afflicting physical issue. It is affecting more people from different age groups and all walks of life, especially during this pandemic. Knowing how our mind could affect our body, we might need to re-phrase “healthy body, healthy mind” to “healthy mind, healthy body”

Iraj Maghounaki

If you would like to donate to Iraj’s’s fundraising and help him reach his target of £10,000, you can do so here.

A big thank you and good luck to Iraj. We can’t wait to hear how you get on!