Afghanistan... by exercise bike and rowing machine

heroic effort From left, WO1 (RSM) Dean Boughen MBE, L/Cpl Gavin Shiels,  Sig Grant Wilkins, Cpl Phillip West, Sig Nick Powell, L/Cpl Philip Bilton, Sgt Karl Ansell
heroic effort From left, WO1 (RSM) Dean Boughen MBE, L/Cpl Gavin Shiels, Sig Grant Wilkins, Cpl Phillip West, Sig Nick Powell, L/Cpl Philip Bilton, Sgt Karl Ansell
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SOLDIERS smashed their target to cycle and row the distance to Afghanistan in 36 hours, while raising cash for armed forces charities.

The troops, armed with three exercise bikes and a rowing machine, set up base at the 24-hour Tesco in North Harbour, Portsmouth, to complete the distance.

A further three teams were taking part in Bournemouth, Swindon and Bristol.

The four groups managed to cycle further than the 5,800km target – the equivalent land mileage from their barracks at Bulford Camp, in Wiltshire, to Lashkar Gah, in Afghanistan – where they will be deployed next March – as well as rowing the distance it would take to cross the English Channel and Red Sea.

The six men from 12th Mechanized Brigade took it in turns to ride and row, and managed brief naps in a nearby army truck.

Lance Corporal Gavin Shiels, said: ‘When I woke up after doing 120km of cycling and rowing I felt stiff, but after about 10 minutes of warming up I felt better again.

‘It’s the fatigue that is hardest to deal with rather than aches and pains. I’m looking forward to time off now and getting some rest.’

Having started the journey at 5am on Tuesday morning, the Portsmouth soldiers reached their target by 1am yesterday, but continued cranking up the miles until 5pm, completing a total of 2,000km on the bikes and 200km on the rowers in the 36-hour challenge – an average of 18kph on the bikes and 9kph on the rowing machine.

In total the four groups raised more than £15,000.

The cash will be split between the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Families Association and ABF The Soldiers’ Charity.

Warrant Officer Dean Boughen said the Portsmouth team had received a particularly impressive reaction.

He said: ‘The support here in Portsmouth has been fantastic, people have been donating a lot and some of them are getting on the machines and helping out with the distance too.

‘The Portsmouth team have been more interactive with the public than the others and they’ve had such a great reaction from people wanting to know more about what they do.

‘As well as rasing money, this is also about keeping us in the public eye and it’s great to see how much appreciation they have shown.’

The troops would like to thank local businesses Costa and Krispy Kreme, who kept their energy levels high with free drinks and doughnuts throughout the event.