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The essence of freedom | Fiona Coward

What's all the fuss?

I still remember clearly where and when I truly 'got' it.

It was on the track before reaching the district road that passes Sunrise School (also known as Prospect School) - you know it. It's where we turn off and head through Hellbron on the way to Masakala.

You see how I'm still writing as if I'm there. Twelve years have passed but it's in my head as if it were right now.

I got that deep visceral feeling of Freedom.

Now everyone's experience of freedom is different, but for me, it was the absolute simplicity of that moment. I had everything I needed in my backpack or strapped to my bike. My only responsibility was moving myself forward.

That deeply entrenched feeling is evoked every time riders saddle up for a short event or the long haul. I live it again vicariously through them.

When I shared this revelation with others, they nodded. Yet, it's not the same for everyone. What particular freedom keeps us individuals connected, or deeply bonded to the race? I googled The Oxford English Dictionary for insights.

Unsurprisingly, the meaning of freedom is as varied as the experiences of the riders on the trail. The italics are my limited commentary. It would be cool if you shared your choice of definition or alternative in the comments column.



· the state of being free or at liberty rather than in confinement or under physical restraint: Our lives and the expectations of others can confine us whereas the trail has the capacity to challenge our preconceived limits. (This is especially poignant with lockdown Level 4)

· exemption from external control, interference, regulation, etc. Show up at work at 8, file minutes, attend obligatory meetings, or get up, eat, ride, eat, ride, sleep and repeat as you wish ...or not.

· the power to determine action without restraint. Stay an extra day or ride through the night. You get there when you get there.

· political or national independence. Well, let's just say that we escape this hot potato for days on end.

· personal liberty, as opposed to bondage or slavery We' are free to ponder whether we are slaves to our cell phones, our life styles or financial obligations. Here on the trail we are free to be who we are.

· exemption from the presence of anything specified (usually followed by from):freedom from responsibility. I'd add freedom from responsibility to anyone but ourselves. We have a chance to be gloriously self centered in the pace we ride, the stops we take, the distance we cover and we can hog all our energy for ourselves.

· the absence of or release from ties, obligations, etc. Nuff said.

· ease or facility of movement or action: The joys of a bicycle taking us where we think we should be going (check your nav twice).

· frankness of manner or speech. We get that some of us go quiet when struggling, others feel a need to roar their frustration – we've all been there and bonus, we are frank in our utter gratitude to the hosts of the trail.

· general exemption or immunity: One day I'll tell you about our Survivor competition and achieving immunity at every support station.

· the absence of ceremony or reserve. A blanket and a few family members...Priceless.

· a liberty taken. Who else is privileged enough to leave work, family and obligations to sommer ride their bike for three weeks.

· a particular immunity or privilege enjoyed, as by a city or corporation: Hmmm, a bit stumped on the relevance of this one.

· civil liberty, as opposed to subjection to an arbitrary or despotic government. Freedom to ride our bikes through our great country highlighted over the past year when lock down limited this freedom.

· the right to enjoy all the privileges or special rights of citizenship, membership, etc., in a community or the like. Membership of the Freedom Family is treasured, respected and heart warming. It's a bond shared even if you never see the other members again.

· the right to frequent, enjoy, or use at will: Access to the trail, to peoples homes, villages and livelihoods provides a freedom so unusual that is has spawned mini events.

· the power to exercise choice and make decisions without constraint from within or without; autonomy; self-determination. A lovely philosophical aspect of Freedom. We can, and frequently do make choices or decisions that may or may not be within our best interests. Navigation, nutrition, weather and the like have consistently contributed to the reminder that freedom of choice is precious and not be taken blithely.

Viva Freedom, viva!

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1 Comment

Bruce Hughes
Bruce Hughes
Jun 30, 2021

It is only in a free society that any mildly sane person would voluntarily choose to carry their bikes, over mountains, during winter, for fun. In this sense The Freedom Challenge is the ultimate expression of freedom: if you choose to participate you are illustrating the fact that you have so much freedom of choice you can even choose to put yourself through hell for the sheer fun of it.

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