A team of researchers are swapping lab coats for lycra this month to raise money in celebration of the British Heart Foundation’s 60th birthday.
The scientists – many of whom are currently funded or have been funded by the BHF in universities across Scotland – have signed up to take part in what they are dubbing the #TourdeResearch.
Inspired by the charity’s milestone birthday on July 28, some of the fundraisers have committed to cycling 60 miles on the day itself, while others have set themselves a target of covering 600 miles throughout the whole month.
All are raising money for the BHF’s life-saving research into heart and circulatory diseases.
More than 28 have already signed up and so far they have raised more than £12,000.
Professor Jill Pell, BHF trustee, came up with the challenge.
She said: “We wanted to mark this important milestone for the BHF and recognise the great achievements of the charity over 60 years in tackling heart and circulatory diseases.
“There is still so much to be done to save and improve lives, but charities have been hit hard by Covid-19, so we decided to roll up our sleeves and do our bit.”
Professor Pell, who is the director of the Institute of Health and Wellbeing and professor of public health at the University of Glasgow, added: “We weren’t sure whether a single big event would be allowed during Covid plus we wanted it to be inclusive, irrespective of cycling experience, fitness level or amount of free time.
“So, as so often during Covid, people have just figured out what works best for them – cycling on-road, off-road or virtually on a static bike.
“There’s a great team spirit with everyone sharing their stories and photos on social media, helping to keep up morale.”
The BHF is the largest independent funder of research into heart and circulatory diseases in Scotland and the UK.
Two of the BHF’s Centres for Research Excellence are in Scotland – at the universities of Glasgow and Edinburgh – and the BHF supports more than 300 research staff in institutions across the country.
Over the past 60 years the BHF has been instrumental in countless life-saving discoveries. BHF research has contributed to the first UK heart transplant, the development of pacemakers, the use of clot-busting drugs to treat heart attacks, and the rollout of genetic testing for inherited heart conditions.
In the 1960s, the decade the BHF was founded, seven out of ten heart attacks in the UK were fatal. Now, thanks in part to research the BHF has helped fund, at least seven out of ten survive.
However, the last year has been one of the most challenging in the BHF’s history. Funding for new research in 2020/21 had to be cut in half because of the devastating impact of the Covid-19 pandemic and as the charity prepares to celebrate turning 60, the BHF says it needs the public’s support now more than ever.
Cara Trivett, 24, a BHF-funded PhD student at the University of Glasgow, has pledged to cycle 600 miles in July.
She said: “I love riding my bike and I am really passionate about promoting healthy lifestyles, especially for women and girls.
“Beyond the personal challenge of taking part, it’s so great to be able to connect with other researchers and see what they are achieving.
“They are inspiring me to keep getting out on my bike and keep the pedals turning towards that 600th mile.”
James Jopling, head of BHF Scotland, praised the fundraisers.
He said: “Our amazing researchers inspire us every single day with their phenomenal work but this takes things to another level.
“It has been wonderful to follow their progress in the run up to our 60th on July 28 and we are so proud of them all.
“The pandemic has shone a spotlight on the importance of science, the impact it can have and its value.
“We do face challenges ahead but our ambitions for our life-saving research are greater than ever.
“Since the BHF was established, our research and campaigning have contributed to the annual number of people dying from heart and circulatory diseases in this country falling by half.
“This is something we can be extremely proud of. But we want to do more and with the public’s help and generosity, we are determined to do so.”