Our late Director, Rod Kohler, was always one to push people to their limits, in a good way! Even when Rod was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, he still took part in one of the hardest UK marathons, putting us all to shame! This inspired me to enter the Ride 100, a 100-mile cycle ride across London and the Surrey Hills, to raise money for the charity Pancreatic Cancer UK, and ultimately to show my support for Rod through this difficult time.
I texted Rod to let him know that I had entered the race to raise money for him and to ask if he was happy for me to announce this with his name, his response was something I will never forget: ‘Oh Gayley, you have made me cry, of course you can’, which was rounded-off with a typical Rod comment: ‘100 miles is nothing compared to the marathon I have just done, though’.
I mentioned to some people at work that I had entered and managed to rope in a few more members, Anna Blunden and Phylli Vostanis, who both jumped at the idea to raise money for Pancreatic Cancer UK in this fashion and equally show their support for Rod. We met with the Pancreatic Cancer UK team a few weeks later and were horrified by the statistics they shared with us:
- Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of all cancers at just 3-6%.
- Pancreatic cancer is one of the only cancers that has not had improved survival rates over the last 40 years.
- Pancreatic cancer has less than 2% of overall cancer research funding.
The three of us walked away from that meeting feeling slightly strange, knowing that someone we loved and respected, along with his family, was having to face a mountain of hardship. This was more than enough motivation to find our fundraising skills and raise as much money as possible, with the hope that this money could help save lives in the future.
It is safe to say that the ride certainly consumed our lives for half of the year! We spent evenings training in Richmond Park, with Merrick kindly agreeing to let us leave the office on Tuesdays early to do some longer rides into the Surrey Hills.
Unfortunately, Rod passed away before the ride took place, but his words of encouragement were with us all the way. We are convinced that Rod planned the weather the day of the ride! It had been sunny for months leading up to it, and then on the day we were hit with gale-force winds and hammering rain, possibly the worst cycling conditions you could have. He never liked things to be easy and always believed you should be pushed to the maximum of your ability. I think he would have been laughing from his cloud in heaven watching us navigate the treacherous weather.
The three of us arrived on the start line filled with mixed emotions of excitement and nerves. It was an incredible feeling being amongst thousands of people who were all there raising money for various charities, all enduring the next five hours of pain to make a difference to people’s lives. We set off as a team but due to the horrible weather it was almost impossible to stay together. The wind was so bad we just had to put our heads down and get on with it! I targeted the largest rider I could find and used him as a windbreak, a tactic that served me well. It was a fantastic feeling cycling the roads of London and Surrey with not a car in sight. We all made various friends along the way, everyone sharing their stories and supporting each other even though we didn’t even exchange names. It’s amazing how you spend an intense 30 minutes with someone, sharing all sorts and supporting each other, only to never see them again.
Half way through the ride, we were met by a drenched Tim, who had kindly been waiting in the rain (he forgot his umbrella) with sweets, biscuits, drinks and everything else you can possibly imagine. This is the point that Anna had realised her tyres were basically flat making her conditions even tougher! Action man Tim jumped in, got this fixed and off she went, speeding round the last 50 miles like Usain Bolt running the 100 metres.
We also spotted Merrick in the crowd with his Rolex umbrella (always on brand) and his wife Jane – they had also braved the horrible weather to show their support, which meant a lot to us.
Big crowds, cheering and jumping, lined The Mall, as we crossed the finish line. The encouragement was like nothing I have experienced before with Buckingham Palace fully in sight, too, and I like to think that HM The Queen was most probably watching from her window. As I crossed the finish line, I gave a little nod to Rod, to say ‘this one was for you’. Team rEvolution was out in full force, with Niki and Nick making a special effort to cheer us over the final mile and of course get a video of our finish.
We raised a total of £20,000 and were in the top 1% of fundraising teams for Pancreatic Cancer UK in 2018. It was a truly unique experience and certainly made the bond between Phylli, Anna and me even tighter. We were overwhelmed by the generosity and support that we received from our family, friends and all the people that were clearly so touched by Rod. We received so many messages and donations from people all over the world who had met Rod and been warmed by his infectious personality. Reading through all the messages of support has certainly taught me to be kinder and bolder and always make time for anyone you meet, and this was something that Rod did so well.
There will always be a Rod-shaped hole in our office, but his legacy certainly lives on and we are already planning the next fundraiser in Rod’s memory.
The Kohler Cup
In the wake of great sadness at the loss of our colleague and friend Rod Kohler, a close friend of the business, as well as of Rod and Merrick, Phil Jennings – a TV producer at IMG – came up with the idea of commemorating Rod with a charitable golf day at a place he loved: Goodwood.
On 16 October 2018, the famous motorsports home of the Festival of Speed and Goodwood Revival welcomed the inaugural Kohler Cup, which got underway with 16 friends and colleagues of Rod, with the incredible support of Rod’s wife and children who joined the group at the 19th hole.
Often referred to as ‘glorious’, Goodwood graciously contributed towards the prizes, along with some incredibly generous participants, including donations from representatives of Mizuno and Quintessential Brands Group. The day helped fundraise a fabulous £520 for Pancreatic Cancer Action – a charity particularly close to the hearts of Rod’s family.
Pancreatic Cancer Action is the only charity that specifically focuses on early diagnosis in everything it does. Its mission is to improve survival rates of those with pancreatic cancer and improve the quality of life for those affected by the disease by focusing on making a diagnosis as early as possible.
Plans are already underway for the second edition of The Kohler Cup, which will return to the rolling Sussex Downs, and there are already teams in place for the 11 October 2019 date.