The night-riding mum who cycles 10 hours a day

The night-riding mum who cycles 10 hours a day

When most people are asleep, mother-of-four Leonne Hutchinson has been cycling around the streets of Edinburgh in the dead of night.

She has clocked up more than 10 hours every day on her bike as she pits herself against the other 297,000 players across the world who compete in a virtual game called Turf.

They win points by cycling, running or walking to as many zones as they can.

It often takes the 51-year-old piano teacher deep into historic graveyards and down dark alleyways in the early hours of the morning.

Leonne’s commitment saw her win the silver medal in November after clocking up 317 hours and covering 1,400 miles (2,200km).

Leonne said she started playing to do something for herself after 17 years of raising her children, who are now aged eight, 13, 15 and 17.

She said: “I’m immensely proud of myself. It has been a massive effort to achieve silver.

“I never gave up. Even when I was talking to my demons and crying on my bike, I managed to overcome every obstacle.

“It has also been a personal achievement for me. Juggling four children and a job – and putting Scotland on the map for the first time in the game – has given me a lovely warm glow.”

The game was invented in Sweden, and Leonne said she was the first person from outside the Nordic countries to make it on to the medal board.

“I am very thrilled and have received a lot of messages from around the world to congratulate me,” she said.

Leonne said she has had to become very organised.

“What I’ve had to do is phenomenal. I have had to set up a diary for the children as a point of notice for them so they know where I am that day and what the plan is.

“Some days I don’t make it home in time to pick up the kids from school, so that’s when I call the local childminder or neighbours or friends.”

Leonne said her husband had been very supportive, and now does all the shopping and cooking.

“I gave up my career in IT to be a stay-at-home mum but four months ago I decided I needed to get back a part of me,” she said.

“After 17 years of me running the house I needed some time back for me. It has been a mental challenge overcoming the days I don’t want to go out, but I’ve done it and I feel a great sense of achievement.

“It has really helped me to know myself and has given me great confidence.”

Leonne said she had learned a lot about Edinburgh and the Lothians while cycling to different zones in the game, and been to places she hadn’t known existed.

“Initially I was a bit spooked when I was visiting zones that were deep into graveyards, but I soon worked out that it’s just our concept of being scared and that the anxiety is unfounded as they are usually pretty deserted.

“I also work out an escape route before I go in.”

She said her biggest issue had been getting chased by dogs which were not on leads.

When restrictions were eased in the summer she also cycled in Dunbar, West Lothian, Dunfermline, Glasgow, Dundee, Falkirk, Stirling, Livingston, Ratho and Broxburn.

Leonne collected 1.405 million points in November – just 50,000 short of the gold medallist – and is on track for silver again in December.

But that would mean cycling every day, including Christmas Day.

Everyone who plays the game is anonymous, but chooses a nickname. Leonne – who was born in Cork – is called Féarglas, which is Irish for green grass.

There is a strategy element to Turf, as players can steal zones from each other and accrue extra points at different times.

The non-profit game was invented in Sweden by military helicopter pilot Andreas Pantesjo and programmer Simon Sikström.

It was originally aimed at children, but has instead been mainly adopted by adults in their 40s and 50s.

Andreas said it had been an “extraordinary achievement” by Leonne, adding: “Not every Turfer is like her.

“It is not just that she has done this distance – you cannot just start going in any direction.

“You also need to work out where to go, and what time of day or night in order to score the most points. You get points from takeovers and from holding on to the zones, until someone takes them from you.”

Leave a Reply