Tragic death of young Edinburgh cyclist leads dad and friend on epic challenge

Ben Forsyth died aged 20. Picture: Contributed
Ben Forsyth died aged 20. Picture: Contributed
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The father and a friend of a British Youth Champion cyclist, who sadly passed away last year at the age of 20, are taking on a monumental challenge in his memory to raise funds for Cardiac Risk in the Young (CRY).

Ben Forsyth, a member of Edinburgh Road Club who had raced with Olympic cycling legend Sir Chris Hoy, discovered an irregularity in his heart in 2013 after a cardiac screening which led to him being referred to the NHS.

Keith Forsyth with his son's friend, Hamish - in their riding kit. Picture: Contributed

Keith Forsyth with his son's friend, Hamish - in their riding kit. Picture: Contributed

After he started developing breathing problems during races in May 2015, a further MRI scan revealed he had arrhythmogenic right ventricular cardiomyopathy (ARVC) – a progressive and incurable disease of the heart muscles.

Following the diagnosis, the Edinburgh University geography student had to stop cycling and begin living a less athletic lifestyle.

But last year, Ben tragically passed away from a sudden cardiac event.

Now, one year on, Ben’s father, Keith Forsyth, and friend, Hamish Carrick, will take on a twisted version of The National Three Peak challenge inspired by Ben’s determination, sense of adventure and his love and support of other people.

Keith, his wife Margaret, and daughter Emma, attended Edinburgh University's geography graduation to collect Ben's posthumous degree. Picture: Contributed

Keith, his wife Margaret, and daughter Emma, attended Edinburgh University's geography graduation to collect Ben's posthumous degree. Picture: Contributed

The normal challenge usually asks participants to complete the highest peaks in Wales, England and Scotland – Snowdon, Scafell Pike and Ben Nevis, whilst a driver takes them between the mountains in 24 hours. However, their trip will see the two cycle the distance between the mountains as well.

Starting on Friday at Snowdon, the whole journey will involve 23 miles of walking with 3,000 metres of climbing, combined with 440 miles of cycling with 6,000 metres of climbing to be completed in 48 hours to raise money so that other young athletes can have potentially life saving screenings.

Hamish said: “When I came up with the idea I was looking for something which was a real proper good challenge.

“A friend had raised money for Ben and for CRY by cycling the West Highland Way and it raised a lot of money and it was really nice to see friends and families coming together and helping each other through the struggles we were all 
facing.

“I’ve cycled for as long as I can remember and I used to race with Ben, we first met when we were 14 in the Edinburgh Rode Club as teammates, so it was only natural to do a cycling focused challenge.”

Keith said: “When Ben passed away we had a collection for CRY at his funeral and that kicked things off with the fundraising.

“We opened a memorial fund and have been raising money to put on cardiac screenings locally.

For every £5000 raised we can ask CRY to screen 100 young people.

“At the moment, we are running two dates for screenings on the 10th and 11th of August, but the 11th is fully booked and we are hoping to put on more.”

The inspiring challenge that the two are undertaking follows a difficult week for Ben’s family.

Last week, two days after the first anniversary of his son’s death, Keith, his wife Margaret, and daughter Emma, attended Edinburgh University’s geography graduation to collect Ben’s posthumous degree.

He said: “The university were great and the graduation was very nice, they really did look after us on the day.

“At the reception with university officials there was a presentation where they spoke about Ben. It was a difficult week, the 30th was my wife and I’s wedding anniversary, Ben’s anniversary was the 1st July, my wife’s birthday was the 2nd and the graduation was on the 3rd.”

Research shows 80 per cent of apparently healthy 14 to 35-year-olds who die from sudden cardiac death will have shown no previous signs of heart defects.

Doctors say it is more common in athletic youngsters as they stress their hearts the most.

Speaking about the importance of screening for young people, Keith added: “If Ben hadn’t had the first screening in 2013, we would never have known about any condition and he wouldn’t have had a further MRI scan in 2015 and something terrible could have happened at the time.

“The screenings are lifesaving for anybody who has an underlying heart condition and wants to push themselves in sports.

“For every 300 young people screened, only one who has an underlying condition will be picked up.”

So far, the cyclists have raised almost £1,800 and hope to raise as much as they can before their trip begins.

Hamish added: “As well as the fundraising, I think that the best thing that has come from this challenge so far is just everyone coming together to support us for this cause.

“It means a lot for Ben’s friends and family.”

Undiagnosed heart conditions in the UK result in 12 young deaths a week.

Donations towards the challenge can be made at https://uk.virginmoneygiving.com/HamishCarrick