May 14, 1940
Tommy Godwin of England completed a 500-day cycling journey in his native country. He used a total of two bicycles during the course of his ambitious long-distance journey and ultimately set records for that two-wheeled transportation mode when it came to the most miles (kilometers) covered in a single year and the shortest time taken to ride 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers). Godwin was 26 years old and already a seasoned cyclist by the time he began that historic ride on January 1, 1939. (Bernard Bennett, a fellow cyclist, initially competed against Godwin in the ride but dropped out before the year was over.)
Godwin brought along a mileometer to record how far he traveled. To further verify the distances he rode, he also carried “mileage cards” to be signed at stopping points en route by postmasters, policemen, and other public officials. The signed cards were used by Cycling magazine to cross-check Godwin’s own records documenting how far he had traveled on any given day.
While seeking to ride on the most hospitable terrain possible for maximum mileage, Godwin still had to endure a wide range of challenges along the way. These challenges included inclement weather; a broken collarbone after a mishap; and emergency restrictions due to the outbreak of World War II. Nonetheless, Godwin pressed on and racked up a record-breaking 75,065 miles (120,805 kilometers) by the end of 1939. He had traveled every day but one throughout the year. Godwin did not take any more time off from the start of 1940 to the time he finally dismounted his bicycle that spring after attaining 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers).
After finishing his successful ride, Godwin underwent a period of rehabilitation to straighten out his curled hands and also to learn how to walk normally again. He made rapid progress within just a few weeks and was able to join the Royal Air Force to fight in the war.
Godwin died in 1975 at the age of 63. More than four decades later, the two major cycling records that he set during his 1939-40 journey were finally broken. In 2016, Kurt Searvogel completed a cycling trip of 76,076 miles (122,432 kilometers) within a span of one year. The following year, Amanda Coker took only 423 days to cover 100,000 miles (160,000 kilometers) while pedaling a bicycle.
For more information on Tommy Godwin, please check out http://www.tommygodwin.com/