After 11,000km of cycling through 20 countries and running six marathons on the way, I found myself travelling on a bus into Istanbul in advance of my final run on 11 November. Given the scale of the traffic, the towering concrete highways and blazing lights of this mega-city I was almost thankful for the bout of food poisoning that had left me short on time and conceding to a motorised form of transport for the final stretch from Bulgaria to Istanbul. The 10km of cycling from the bus stop to my hostel was quite enough to know this isn't a cycle friendly city! 

Since mid-June 2018 I have been cycling through Europe, from my front door in rural Herefordshire to the sky-high minarets of Istanbul. I have cycled on silken tarmac cycle paths and crumbling, potholed back roads; in gutters and gullies; on dirt roads and mud paths; through mountains and valleys; around rivers, through fjords and along beaches. When not on the bike I have been wild camping in forests, woodland, on riverbanks and on top of mountain passes. I have also, from time to time, been running marathons.

I set myself the challenge of running seven European marathons over seven months in Paris, Edinburgh, the South Downs, Tallinn, Budapest, Zagreb and Istanbul - and cycling to every one of them. At the time of writing, I am six down, with one to go. All the while raising money for the Bristol Heart Institute through Above & Beyond.

I was born with Congenital Heart Disease and quickly underwent surgery at the Bristol Royal Infirmary as a baby, with a second operation performed when I was a year old. About 10 years ago I was transferred to the care of the Bristol Heart Institute for my regular checkups, scans and tests which have been keeping an eye on the development of my heart as I have grown into my mid-twenties. While an outpatient at the BHI I have received exceptional care from the wonderful staff and have taken part in a couple of research studies that have been carried out at the hospital. 

I seized the opportunity to give something back to this fantastic institution, by taking on an epic physical challenge across Europe. To date I have raised over £3,500 towards my initial £5,000 target and am hopeful I can carry on fundraising into the future. 

A sensible decision after such a long journey might be to draw a line under it and head back home to some sort of normality - but I will be continuing my cycle and running adventures after the final marathon in Istanbul. Next week I fly to Delhi to begin a 5 month cycle tour of India. During this time I plan to take on another running challenge - a 500km run along the length of Sri Lanka. 

My ultimate goal is to cycle to Sydney, Australia by the end of 2019 and as long as I am cycling, and setting myself ever increasingly madcap running challenges, I will continue to raise funds for the BHI and the incredible work that goes on behind its doors.

Thanks to all the team at Above & Beyond for the continued support, and thank you to everyone that has donated to my fundraising so far!

By Pete Lamb, Above & Beyond fundraiser