In 1939, Tommy Godwin cycled 75,065 miles – an average of 205 miles per day.
Perhaps the greatest endurance feat of all time, and one of the least well-known and celebrated; Tommy Godwin’s record-breaking 1939 ride deserves to take its rightful place as one of the greatest athletic achievements ever.
A feat of physical and mental endurance so momentous, so outrageous – that it’s difficult to fully comprehend what the achievement actually represents.
If you are not a regular cyclist, but particularly if you are – consider this scenario: you wake before the dawn and drag yourself out of bed and out into the bleak morning of a Boxing Day in wartime England.
You eat little (if anything) for breakfast and ride purposefully through the inclement weather and along poorly maintained streets. Your bike is well-maintained, but is a heavy steel-framed bike with only four gears. You ride for some hours, and then you ride for many more – until you have completed a staggering, shattering, 185 miles on the road.
The next day you ride 204 miles.
You don’t think that this is particularly extraordinary; in fact it’s actually a little below your daily average, and after all you have been doing this for over fifty-one weeks straight, with only one day off!
In four days time you have good reason to cheer the arrival of the New Year – your name is Tommy Godwin – and you have just smashed the record for most miles cycled in a year.
A mammoth achievement from a modest man.
In a modern age of millionaire golfers and petulant footballers, Tommy’s achievement serves as a useful reminder of what true sporting prowess was, and can still be. A modest man, described by his family as
the most unassuming gentle man and yet a member of the old school who was
as hard as iron physically.
This site is dedicated to Tommy’s incredible achievement and also, importantly, to Tommy the man. We hope that it will prove a useful tool in providing a general background to Tommy, and his record-breaking ride.
Information on Tommy’s upbringing, and unstoppable rise to the heights of cycling folklore can be found within ‘The Man’ pages. For more technical information (including info on Tommy’s bike and the daily distances he clocked up on it) check out both the ‘The Machine’ and the ‘1939 Stats’.
Want to know how it all started, and what rules and regulations were laid down for Tommy and his fellow competitors? ‘The Challenge’ gives a brief history to the ‘year-record’, and delves into the events of 1939 (Tommy’s record-breaking year) in more detail.
The Photo Gallery offers a nostalgic trip down memory lane, with some great shots of Tommy in action.
If you’re interested in seeing a few examples of the various routes that Tommy used, have a look at the interactive map on the Routes page.
Additional contributions to the site are most welcome; If you have any information, photos, stories or are simply interested in the site, please contact us.