South Yunderup great-grandmother to ride 600km for children’s charity

Source: Mandurah Mail: Sept 8 2020: 2:58pm
Author: Justin Rake

She’s conquered depression, and now she’s out to conquer the physical world. She’s 81-year-old great-grandmother Paula Prynne of South Yunderup, and her story is nothing short of an inspiration. Next month Paula will ride her bike across a 600-kilometre journey from Perth to Augusta as part of the South West Bike Trek, raising funds for children’s cancer research.

But just how she came to be a cycling die-hard is her most impressive feat of all. Paula suffered from clinical depression for eight years. Unable to get out of bed and contemplating ending it all, it was the darkest time of her life.

“I was a complete zombie,” she said. “For eight years, my family had to do everything for me, and when that starts happening you start thinking about how you’re going to end it all.

“I was so deep in this depression, that I felt I was ready to go.”

Feeling trapped inside her own mind, it was the thought of her family that kept Paula going.

“I kept thinking about them and what would it be like if I weren’t here, and I just couldn’t put them through that,” she said.

“They became something for me to hang onto, and I wasn’t going to go out that way.”

But while the thought of family was a pillar for Paula to lean on, she needed something to get her moving in life. Something physical, something she could use as a motivator every day. That’s when she took up cycling.

“I’d never cycled before and people kept telling me I had to be careful for my age, or that it might be dangerous at my age,” she said.

“But I didn’t buy into all of that. It’s ridiculous, my age isn’t a factor.”

Paula soon joined her local over 55s cycling club, and what started out as a hobby has now become a seven-days-a-week obsession. In the lead-up to her 600km trek, she’s been riding more than 250kms per week, a workload she plans to increase as the journey gets nearer.

“I just love it. I feel like it gives me the momentum I need to keep going,” she said.

“To go through eight years of clinical depression and come out the other end, it’s a thrill.

“I often find myself looking at my life now compared to back then and it’s just miraculous.”

Paula originally planned to take on last year’s South West Bike Trek, but just weeks before she was due to set off she fell from her bike and broke her arm. It was six weeks before she was able to get back on a bike, and six months before her cast was removed. But that setback only made her all the more eager to sign up for the 2020 version of the ride.

“I was really deflated not being able to participate last year – I’d trained so hard,” she said.

“This year I’m really determined to complete the ride. I’m feeling pretty confident with how I’ve been training.”

Paula will join a group of riders in tackling the journey, which will see them each cover 100kms per day from October 11-17. She has set up an Everyday Hero page to help raise funds for children’s cancer research. To donate, click here.