by Michael Macfarlane | 12 November 2018
On Saturday 3 November 2018, I faced my fears and abseiled from the roof of the HSBC UK National Cycling Centre in Manchester in aid of one of Sellick Partnership’s chosen charities, Wood Street Mission. The opportunity came up a week beforehand and I jumped at the chance, having done a few similar experiences previously, and despite finding them terrifying I always enjoy then immensely. This was no exception. The Cycling Centre – or the Manchester Velodrome as it is also called – stands at over 45 metres high, which may not seem a lot but trust me, when you are standing at the top it feels incredibly high up.
The whole experience lasted about an hour, with eight of us abseiling representing different businesses from Greater Manchester. I was the only volunteer from Sellick Partnership, but there was also representatives from the National Cycling Centre, Kuits Solicitors and some of the Wood Street Mission team. We all arrived at half past 12 and spent the first 15 minutes harnessing up. We were then given a very brief set of instructions and off we went, helmet and all.
I must say the most hair-raising part of the experience was the 40 metre climb to the top of the building. A very steep metal walkway stood before us and the abseiling platform perfectly which is situated in the middle of the building. Yes it was secure enough, but the gaps made looking down all the more scary. One by one we climbed, trying not to look down – apart from the quick glance at the cyclists that had just begun to circle the Velodrome track. Before we knew it, we had reached the top and all wondered why we had been so terrified at the bottom in the first place.
The view from the top was amazing! There was a group of cyclists zooming around the track, and from where we were standing we could see and hear everything. Then it dawned on me, the only way I was getting down from here was on a rope, and my attention suddenly moved to the area below us that was marked out for us to safely land.
We were joined by two men, armed with harnesses and plenty of ropes and clips. We were given another very short safety brief then the first two volunteers stepped up. They got clipped on, climbed over the railings and stood with their backs to the massive drop below. Then without hesitation they went, and made it look incredibly easy. I was positive they must have done this before.
Then it was my turn. I stepped up to the ledge and got strapped in. It was the next part that really had me worried. We had to step under a railing that was intentionally put there to stop people falling over the edge. What an unnerving experience this was, standing with my back to a 40 metre drop, with nothing but a piece of rope holding me on. The instructor took off my safety rope, attached the abseil rope, and I was free to go, “step back and hold on he said”… Easier said than done I tell you.
Not to look like a wimp I let go, and started on my very slow decent to the ground. My stomach was churning, my heart was beating and then I realised how exhilarating an experience this was. A few minutes later I was safely on the ground, and I wondered what all my worrying was about. I heard cheers from the gallery, a quick pat on the back from the instructor on the ground, and that was it. My abseil was complete.
Some might argue that experiences like this are easy, but when you have a fear of heights it makes it a little bit more challenging. I have always believed and been taught to face your fears, and that is what I have always done. Facing your fears allows you to put many things into perspective. This abseil for example, made me realise once again that no matter how high you are, you can always get down safely. When in situations like this I always think about my favourite inspirational quote about facing your fears by Eleanor Roosevelt: "You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, 'I have lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.' You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
Being able to do something that I am proud of, whilst raising money for such a well deserving charity was an amazing experience. Wood Street Mission, and all the charities we support depend on donations to help them continue the work they do. I will definitely do something like this again, and would urge anyone thinking about raising money for charity it to get involved, it really is a rewarding experience.
I have been raising money, so if you would like to donate please head along to my Just Giving page.