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Bob Sheridan’s on a mission to save lives

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Some people set goals to eat healthier, drink less, lose weight or build a plentiful financial nest egg.

Not many, however, decide to hop on a bike and pedal more than 11,000 kilometres across Australia.

But, that’s what Novocastrian Robert “Bob” Sheridan intends to do, beginning from next month, while raising awareness and funds for the Black Dog Institute (BDI).

The St Mary’s Catholic College Gateshead teacher will kick off the trek in Townsville on 11 April, before making his way to Broome, then Perth and finally home to Newcastle, via Adelaide.

And, it’s probably why he’s calling it “Bob Sheridan’s Bike Odyssey”.

On ya bike: Bob Sheridan. Photo: Rod Thompson

“It’s a big ask,” he admitted.

“An expedition that exceeds 11,000 kilometres and six months.

“I’m guessing it will take about six weeks to go from Townsville to Broome, approximately 4,500 kilometres.

“However, I am doing that stage with three good mates – Brendan Smith, Paul Robertson and Kenny McInwain, who’ve decided to join me at the start, which is fantastic.

“The second phase involves riding from Broome to Perth (3,000 kilometres) and then, finally, I’ll tackle the east coast via Adelaide, Broken Hill, Dubbo, Canberra, Wollongong, Sydney and eventually Newcastle.  

“From Broome, I am on my own.

“It’s easily my biggest challenge, especially given I’m 68.

“But, I’ve trained strongly for it, so I am fairly confident.

“I have been riding nearly 400 kilometres every week [this year] – averaged out, that’s pretty good.

“Doing those long rides earlier in 2023 (Newcastle to Lennox Head, Melbourne to Canberra) certainly helped, too.

“Going across from Townsville to Broome with the boys will break me in.

“It’ll be hot, however I’ll have support.

“By the time I arrive in Broome, I will be ready for the next part of it.

“I expect the third leg, crossing the Nullarbor, to be the toughest section.”

Mr Sheridan is no stranger to testing himself in the sporting arena.

A former rugby league player, he’s undertaken two Ironman triathlons, walked The Camino di Santiago, and trekked to the Annapurna and Everest base camps.

“I’ve become an ‘old man adventurer’ now,” he told the Newcastle Weekly.

“I used to compete in triathlons but, due to injuries, I couldn’t swim or run anymore.

“So, I got into cycling – and fell in love with long-distance riding.

“In the past couple of years, I’ve participated in countless Zoo2Zoo rides, cycled around Tasmania and from Melbourne to Cooktown.

“In 2022, I went from Port Augusta (South Australia) to Karumba (Queensland).

“Already this year, I’ve ridden from Newcastle to Lennox Head and Melbourne to Canberra, which was a Zoo2Zoo event as well.

“I’ve used them as an opportunity to raise funds for the BDI.”

Mr Sheridan admitted the Black Dog Institute was a charity “close to his heart”.

“I continue to live with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” he said.

“It does not define who I am, it is part of my journey.

“I was 12 years old when sexually abused; an incident that no child should endure.

“However, I told no-one about it because of the stigma and shame; until I was 62.

“By then, I was dealing with depression, PTSD and anxiety.

“A combination of friends, family, professional help and exercise aided my recovery and provided the motivation to spread a positive mental health message and raise much-needed funds for the BDI.

“The organisation does a fantastic job, through research and education, trying to reduce the incidents of suicide in Australia.

“Sadly, mental illness is everywhere these days… no matter if you’re young or old, male or female.

“And, it can be brought on by a number of things, from COVID to climate change, work/life situations to bullying and domestic violence.

“It doesn’t discriminate – it affects one-in-five Australians every year with symptoms like depression and anxiety.

“The impact can be devastating, not only for those living with it, but for those around them.

“For men particularly, they keep quiet about it.

“So, we need to overcome that.

“That’s what the Black Dog Institute’s main message is: learn about it, seek help and look after your mates.”

Pedal power: Bob Sheridan before his big odyssey starts. Photo: Rod Thompson

Even though Mr Sheridan is keen to reach his target of $100,000, the father-of-one confessed he’s motivated by other factors as well.

“To be honest, it’s not about the money so much,” he said.

“For me, it’s all about raising awareness of mental health and doing anything I can to reduce suicide rates.

“That’s the primary focus.

“The world needs more inspirational stories and I hope following this adventure provides just that.”

To kick-start Mr Sheridan’s quest, he’ll host a fundraiser at the Carrington Bowling Club on Sunday 2 April from 4pm.

“Everyone’s welcome to attend,” he said.

“We’ll have raffles and various activities.

“People can also follow me on my Facebook page, where I’ll be providing regular updates.”

If you’d like to donate, go to www.teamblackdog.org.au/fundraisers/robertsheridan/bob-sheridan–s-bike-odyssey

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