A blog about cycling...especially the long distance stuff

Monday, 10 November 2014

Think you can cycle a long way?

Flabbergasted. Astonished. Respectful...even at time disbelieving. That was how I felt after reading 'Unsurpassed' the incredible story of Tommy Godwin...a long distance cyclist who has given new definition to the word 'endurance'.

The year was 1939. A 27 year old amateur cyclist from Stoke on Trent pedaled away from home to set about challenging a cycling magazine competition with a challenge to see who could cycle the farthest distance in a calender year, under club riding rules. Now here is the crazy part. 1 year later, Tommy had racked up a thigh screaming, buttock blistering 75,000 miles (120,00km). Yes, you read that correctly...an average of 205 miles per day, times 365. This was on a heavy steal bike, without modern nutrition (and in fact through war time Britain and rationing) and through a notoriously nasty winter.

To put this into perspective: A fit and trained cyclist can do a 100 miles in a day and be pretty much OK  the next day with good nutrition and a good nights sleep. 200 miles in a day is a whole new level that heads into Audax territory - and you just don't hear of riders being able to sustain anything close to that level of distance for weeks...let alone months...let alone a year.

At his peak in June, Tommy knocked out the following distances over consecutive days...in miles:


I just can't imaging riding 361 miles in a day, even with fresh legs! Astonishingly...at the end of his 1 year completely smashing all other records...in true Forrest Gump style but without the Hollywood script writers, Tommy kept on riding until he hit day 500, and with 100,000 miles done, and only 1 rest day!!

You would think after a ride like that he'd have earned a jolly good lie down - but 3 weeks later the war had caught up with Tommy and he was conscripted into the Army. Problem for the Army was, Tommy could still not walk properly yet!

The story of Tommy Godwin has further endearing quality's too because of his humble upbringing, complete lack of fame and ego...and for those who have pushed themselves physically on long rides can appreciate, the incredible mental strength and bloody mindedness he must have had to keep going. Really inspiring stuff...some great photos and information here if you are interested in his story.

His record still stands.