A lot can happen in a 46-mile bike ride but for Natasha Thompson each turn of her wheel will represent another stage in her inspiring journey from despair to success.
Later this month Natasha will be riding in the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 46 as part of her PruGOals programme but as a homeless teenager just six years ago nothing was further from her mind.
Finding herself without a home at the age of 16, Natasha spent six years moving from place to place in London, sleeping on friends’ floors or on park benches, wherever she could find.
All the situation required was a helping hand and that’s where Centrepoint, a charity that supports young homeless people, stepped in.
“I didn’t know where I was going, who to turn to or what I could do to help myself out of the hole I found myself in,” said Natasha.
“Sometimes I have the feeling that if I didn’t find Centrepoint I would most probably have been dead or something like that now, it sounds kind of harsh but it’s probably true.
“I was really just quite happy to have a bed to be honest, I felt less lonely knowing Centrepoint was there to help me.”
For the first time in six years Natasha had a warm, safe room at a west London hostel and soon set about helping to channel her anger through counselling and embracing every opportunity possible.
She joined a boxing session, thrived at a Street Football Training Centre and would go on to represent Team England at the International Street Football Festival 2015 in Manchester.
She added: “I noticed I was being more confident and I actually involved myself in a lot of the courses that Centrepoint gave out because I wanted to make sure I got every opportunity that I could.
“It changed my perspective on life, physically, mentally, socially – it changed a lot.
“The PruGOals programme helped me to be confident to ride a bike on the roads of London and to challenge myself to finish 46 miles.
“It’s exciting because I love cycling, I love taking part in group activities and I like to feel part of a team, with PruGOals you get that.
“Prudential RideLondon wasn’t something that I ever thought I would be able to do.”
Natasha is challenging herself to complete the 46-mile ride in two-and-a-half hours and with her new-found confidence has shown willing to throw herself at every opportunity in life.
She now coaches street football sessions for Centrepoint and takes pictures at Fulham FC after excelling during a photography course, a skill that is also proving successful in her cycling pursuits.
She added: “I’ve been able to take photos along the journey of Prudential RideLondon and I’ve put it in a blog so now loads of people can see how I’m changing.
“Before, I saw myself as lost. Now I’m a somebody instead of a nobody and I’m on the right path.”
PruGOals is an initiative set up by Prudential to empower young people to drive their ambitions and fulfil their potential regardless of social or economic background. For more information, visit prugoals.co.uk