Takeley paramedic swaps four wheels for two in cycling challenge

PUBLISHED: 08:57 10 August 2018 | UPDATED: 09:09 10 August 2018

Alex Watts is an endurance cyclist and a paramedic from Takeley. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Alex Watts is an endurance cyclist and a paramedic from Takeley. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

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A Takeley paramedic and world-ranked endurance cyclist who has suffered from depression has set himself a series of challenges to raise awareness about sport’s positive impact on mental health.

Alex's view when he camped on his way to Plymouth for a race on July 26. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDAlex's view when he camped on his way to Plymouth for a race on July 26. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

After finishing a night shift in Braintree, Alex Watts, 38, cycled to Plymouth, camping along the way, where he took part in a 24-hour endurance race on July 26, which had to be cut short due to weather conditions.

In October, Alex will be one of 10 riders cycling 480 miles each along the English coast over 10 days for the mental health charity Mind and he plans to cycle down the Rocky Mountains, in America, next April, unsupported.

Alex, who lives with his wife Sally, 39, who is also a keen cyclist, said: “I woke up in intensive care a year-and-a-half ago and life as I knew it was sort of snatched away from me.

“I lost an uncle and a couple of friends just afterwards and I suffered with low mood. It’s something which I shouldn’t be embarrassed about talking about it because its good to talk to others.”

Alex, who was training for the endurance racing world championships before he became ill, said that he continued to exercise after he left hospital.

He said: “It was part of my life, it’s a constant.”

Alex is now a blue light champion for Mind, which involves challenging stigma and increasing understanding of mental health in the emergency services.

Alex Watts set up camp overnight when he cycled to Plymouth. Picture: CONTRIBUTEDAlex Watts set up camp overnight when he cycled to Plymouth. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Independent research carried out by Mind shows that people who work and volunteer in the emergency services are even more at risk of experiencing a mental health problem than the general population, but are less likely to get support.

When asked why this could be Alex said: “I honestly do not know. You could say it’s because we see traumatic and dramatic events. I think shift work has a lot to do with it. Being a blue light champion essentially means being a beacon and a contact, telling your story and hopefully others will identify with it.”

Alex’s Plymouth race was called off 20 hours in after heavy winds and a tree fell on the track, but he still managed to come seventh and celebrated with a Domino’s pizza.

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