Four years ago Clarke started cycling to raise money for the charity Macmillan Cancer Support, and has so far collected £23,000.
“I and a friend decided one Christmas that we weren’t doing a lot of exercise, and we weren’t doing anything for the greater good.
“We both knew people who had benefitted from the help that Macmillan gives to people with cancer, so we decided to sign up for a charity cycle ride in the Alps,” says Clarke.
“It was the first time Macmillan had done an ‘extreme’ cycle challenge, but we didn’t realise that. I didn’t even have a bike at the time.”
His first charity bike ride involved two mountain climbs a day over three consecutive days, with the size of the climbs getting bigger each day.
“I started too fast,” says Clarke. “I tried to keep up with people who had done lots or triathlons and other races, and I nearly died on the first day.”
Since then Clarke has specialised in fund raising by cycling between every single one of the 81 branches in his East Midlands patch, using 11 days of his holiday to cover 768 miles. Branch staff, clients and customers contributed a staggering £8,000 the first time he completed the grand tour, and £11,000 last year.
Johoroth Sheikh, a spokeswoman for Macmillan, said the money Clarke had raised could go towards a wide range of services provided by the charity, from funding nurses to paying for a telephone support service for cancer sufferers and their family and friends who need practical advice, financial help and emotional support.
She said: “We can’t thank Graham enough for taking on this challenge. It’s no mean feat cycling that distance, and getting all his staff involved in the fundraising too. No one should face cancer alone, and with the help of great supporters like Graham, no one will.”
Clarke says that everyone can benefit from getting on their bike to raise money for charity: “I’m fitter and healthier for doing this, but I also have pride because I’ve raised money for a good cause.
“Everyone in the branches made a donation when I walked in, even though I was dressed in sweaty lycra.”
However, in addition to a bike, there are two things that prospective fund raisers need before setting off: a supportive family – in Clarke’s case wife Lorraine and children Bethany and Annabel - who understand why their husband and dad is using up his annual leave for fundraising purposes, and a pair of padded shorts.