Jake Bailey has found himself bitten by the Kathmandu Coast to Coast bug and will line up for a second time in 2020, this time as an individual after being part of a three-person relay in 2019.
It’s a remarkable turnaround for the former Christchurch Boys High School Head Boy who fought off Burkitt’s non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, only to struggle to walk unassisted after the chemotherapy damaged the nerves in his legs.
But true to form, and his incredible resilience, in 2019, three years after his initial diagnosis, the 21-year-old took on the three part 140-kilometre bike ride to cross the finish line in New Brighton, alongside two of his ex-school mates, James Dunbar and Dalton Ewing.
‘The feeling of accomplishment was incredible. I was so humbled to have been able to be a part of an event with so much history and meaning to the Canterbury community - and also fairly grateful that I made it!’ said Bailey, who is also a Kathmandu Ambassador.
Almost as quick as he crossed the finish line, like many who start their Coast to Coast journey as part of a team, Bailey had already set his sights on coming back to take on the challenge of completing the 243-kilometre course in the two-day individual event. ‘Even the day before, at the registration you start to feel how special the event is and how much it will mean to you to achieve the Kathmandu Coast to Coast, and then when you do cross that finish line, you just want to do it again,’ said Bailey.
‘It’s a tough race, there’s no doubt about it, but having grown up in Christchurch and seen family members and friends do it for years, I just want to be able to say I did that too, the whole thing on my own. I went from one side of the South Island to the other and it was all me.’
Having recently completed the Tour de Cure, a 1400km bike race in Australia, Bailey says he’s comfortable with the bike and run legs of the event, but mastering the kayak, including earning his grade two certificate will be a challenge. ‘It’s probably my biggest challenge to learn the kayak, but I’ve got more than 200 days to get myself sorted, so I’m confident I’ve got enough time to get myself organised. And there are some fantastic people around that I’m sure will help me out along the way.’
Now in remission for the third year, Bailey is also looking forward to continuing to demonstrate there is life after an illness such as cancer. ‘I’d like to show survivors that they can go on to better things. That cancer doesn’t define them. I often meet parents whose kids are going through cancer and they’re incredibly worried about how their kids might come out the other side from a physical standpoint, and I guess I’m walking proof that life can be good, it can be great and it shouldn’t hold you back.’