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Tommy Godwin: long-distance cycling legend

Monday, 9 May 2016

This week marks 76 years since Tommy Godwin set a new record for the fastest completion of 100,000 miles by bike. It remains unbroken.

Tommy’s 100,000-mile record was the natural follow-on from his successful attempt to set a new ‘year mileage record’. The premise behind the year record is pretty straightforward: cycle as far as you can in 365 days. When Tommy finished his year’s ride on 31 December 1939, he’d cycled 75,065 miles and averaged over 200 miles a day, beating the previous record, which was held by Bernard Bennett from Birmingham, by a whopping 9,938 miles.

Rather than hang up his boots and bask in the glory of his hard-earned success, Tommy decided he wasn’t done yet. He resolved to continue his ride so that he might also become king of the 100,000-mile record. Despite wartime rationing and disruptive blackout regulations, Tommy swept to victory on 13 May 1940, completing 100,00 miles in exactly 500 days.

Earlier this year, U.S. cyclist Kurt Searvogel became the first person to beat Tommy’s year mileage record when he wracked up 76,076 miles. But the 100,000-mile record remains firmly under the grip of Tommy Godwin, the ultimate long-distance legend.

SPECIAL OFFER: enter code GOTOMMYGO at checkout for 30% off The Year: Reawakening the legend of cycling’s hardest endurance record. Includes free UK mainland postage. Offer ends 21 May 2016. 

Cyclist Tommy Godwin riding the year mileage record
Tommy Godwin out on the road.

Diary of cyclist Tommy Godwin who set a new year mileage record
Tommy Godwin’s diary from late October 1939, showing his daily mileages and the day he broke Nicholson’s record. Photo: Dave Barter/Godwin family archive.

Mileometer of cyclist Tommy Godwin who set a new year mileage record
Godwin’s mileometer showing five zeros as he passes the 100,000-mile mark in May 1940.

Tommy Godwin sets 100,000 mile cycling record
Godwin reaches the 100,000-mile mark at the Paddington track on 13 May 1940.

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