For the month of January Strava were promoting their light hearted competition challenging you to ride as many miles as possible by the end of the month. While congratulating myself for having completed a meagre 500+ miles it got me thinking about how many miles you could cycle in a year and then if there was a world record for the event so a quick Google came up with answer of 75,076 miles.
At first I did not believe the result but on further investigation I came across the website of the legend that is Tommy Godwin and also details of the other iron men who have held the record dating back to 1911. The website led me to Amazon and a book about Tommy titled “Unsurpassed” written by Godfrey Barlow.
What makes this world record so amazing is the dedication required for 24hrs a day for 365 days, you cannot afford a days ill health and you need to go in any weather, indeed Tommy only had one day in the year off and averaged over 200 miles per day on a bike that was far cry from todays light weight machines.
One particular ride he undertook was from Winchester to Canterbury and it was of particular interest to me because he would almost certainly have passed my front door. His average speed of 20mph for this 120mile route is phenomenal especially considering the road surface and gradient over which he would have been travelling.
The website http://www.tommygodwin.com gives an amazing insight into his life and achievements and a list of previous record holders had me really feeling for one of the competitors. Bernard Bennet rode 45,801 for a record attempt in 1937 only to be beaten by Rene Menzies and Ossie Nicholson who both completied over 60,000 miles. Undeterred Bernard tried again in 1939 raising his mileage to 65,127 , imagine the feeling of being trumped again the same year by Tommy and his massive 75,065 miles.. Not content with the yearly mileage he had just set Tommy continued riding until he had clocked up 100,000 miles in exactly 499 days, two amazing records set 70 years ago that still both stand to this day.
An extract from the book that really tells the story of his cycling is in the answer to a question posed by a journalist at the press conference after his amazing ride. Asked how he managed to cope with so little sleep when at times he was riding 18 hours or more a day, he replied “I find cycling done properly is so restful that I can manage with five hours sleep a day“. Tommy was like no other cyclist before or probably since, he died at 63 of a heart attack while out on a ride with friends, a fitting way to go.
In these days we frequently hear of sportsman being put forward as the best the world have ever seen, I must confess that before my research I had not heard of Tommy Godwin but his amazing exploits and records would certainly put him in the hierarchy of sporting achievement. For most mortal cyclists 200 miles is serious distance that requires training and then a recovery period, to do it every day for 16 months is almost beyond comprehension.