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Photos copyright Laurence Gouault
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Friday, 20 January 2012

Tommy Godwin Cycling super Man, by Stevie flat tire Haston.

I did 3001 pull-ups today, and some people might say wow, or Wow. But, and this ‘But’, is a Gargantuan one, you have to understand perspective, and real standards. Real standards of hard athletes, and true pros relocate my performance to  just what it was: a good, or very good session.  Tommy Godwin born 1912  probably did the most any athlete can ever  do in a year. Despite so called improvements in modern sports science it may never be equalled..
Tommy Godwin transcends what even great sportsmen think of as true work, and worth and it is probably time that the whole of British sport realized this and paid him homage.. You don’t know who Tommy was, and after reading this you will think his record is crazy, but  we should all know by now things are never right and its only the magically inspired who become great. Tommy Godwin is certainly the greatest Ultra athlete Britain has had, and lets say, because we are all turning into Milksops, Tommy is probably going to stay that way for ever. If I may make so bold, he may be the greatest ultra athlete of all time in the whole of the world, but that is a big claim, and I am not sure, because of course history is never accurate, or complete.
Tommy Godwins record is to have cycled the most miles kilometres leagues, or bottom blistering bumps in a year, and then to keep going to take the 100.000 mile mark. It is rarely acknowledged and little cared about but a tiny moments reflection will stun you. 205 miles average for a year. 200 mile average for the continuation for the 100.000 mile mark. Only one day off to hob nob with the Prince, probably the least interesting fact. An average of 200 a day hides the cruel fact that you have to go much higher to cover your low days, your sick days and days of atrocious weather. This record is astounding, reinvent the word Gob smacking please, was done in Britain just before the  Second World War. Tommys deferment to cannon fodder was delayed so he could succeed, perhaps they could have let him off altogether.. His bike, the best of the time was a good 28 lbs, but add on the extra few pounds for primitive light system and spares, and you arrive over 30. The roads weren’t that great, but were empty at least. He had to deal with blackout at the end of his record due to War regulations and seek out the best weather and avoid the wind. To this end he was constantly on the move traversing the UK.

I am a fan of athletes, especially the long events, but there are two athletes who do stand out over the course of time. Yannis Kouros the runner and Tommy Godwin the cyclist. They make all the achievements in mountaineering look pretty lame. When I train I have a couple of little tricks and they are of use when I am in trouble.  One is the number 303 which is the record km distance for 24hrs, and the other only called in at times of  desperate dire need, is 100.000 miles; its my secret mantra,  and they work.
Tommy Godwin was a vegetarian and good on him for becoming one. His decision was taken after working in a pork pie factory, I am ashamed to say I am not  a veg anymore having spent over twenty as one I switched back to being a carnivore when my body told me to do so. It might be time to become a lacto-veg again after having had a look at Tommy’s diet it might be possible to train hard and recover. The food was probably better then and Tommy was 27, so maybe yes he could recover but maybe not me.
Tommy’s later years were spent as a trainer coach for the ‘Stone Wheelers’ club of cyclists. There is a plaque somewhere in ‘the Potteries’, but it should be moved to Trafalgar square.
This last week I have looked for inspiration, cross Atlantic rows, Germany to Australia Kayak journeys; thinking about professional soldiers and postmen of ancient times, Rowers in the ancient Middle sea, the Kalahari Bushmen ‘eating the wind’ chasing animals and in all of this the image of Tommy holds firm. Keep on Rolling.
Tommy in layman’s times did a Tour de France, not for two weeks, but for over a year. I have talked to some of my mates who know more about cycling than I do, and they confirm the obvious, this record is gold. Most of the athletes I mention this record to just don’t want to believe it! The greatest distance ran over 365 days, was done by the great pedestrian Girad, who has run across all continents.  He averaged 74 km a day on his last Euro tour. Converting cycling to running miles is troublesome, but it is clear, 200 miles on a bike is more than 74 on yer feet. Indeed this kind of super long term event might only be possible on a bike due to its low impact nature.
What a diamond geezer Tommy was and still is such an inspiration for toughness,. keep on rolling. A very interesting  bit of sport, and more interesting for the fact it was done before cretins and creatine, composite bikes, steroids, fitness protocols dreamed up by also-rans, and all the rest of the Modern None-sense. Anyway think about Tommy’s prodigious fitness the next time you give up.

Some more facts for you, as this piece seems very popular.

There are two Tommy Godwin's who were cyclist, one born 1912, and one born 1920, both great athletes.

Why can we trust the record? Well it seems that the record was taken very seriously indeed, he was watched a great deal of the time, and he was supported by the cycling community of the time, this meant the cycling press and some news people kept track. He had a sealed mileomiter, and was often accompanied or he accompanied others for friendship. The record was a very big deal, probably more was made of it then, than would be made of it now.

Was he a good rider? Well the record for me speaks for itself, it is an Ultra record which although reflecting in some way the calibre of the man, it is more a measure of his metal. Tommy was very capable of riding over 20 miles an hour, for a half dozen hours. He won many races and a Century was obviously not a big deal for him.

Which was his biggest day? 21st June 1939 seems to be 361 miles, and was 19 hours. I think he had done big un the day before, up at 5, bed at 12, yes man, pass me the juice.

Vegetarian?  Tommy was a Lacto veg, relied on eggs and cheese, not much veg, but some fruit. The foods value may well have been very high, less processing and contamination. In those days

Roads? They were not very good to bad, often with a bad camber. The great advantage, and something which would obviously affect you now was the absence of traffic. This is important at all stages but particularly for fatigued riders at the end of the day. Even my mate’s memory doesn’t stretch that far back, think Cobblestones in towns, even the good surfaces would be rough by today’s standards.

More info? Some great info on the Web, well thought out and considered, better than this rehash by me. Most was based on an article in a cycling mag long ago. For me he was a mythical hero mentioned by my dad, my dad cycled from Edinburgh to London before the war, when he was 14, living off turnips. I think there was a joke doing the rounds, during the start of the war, about whether it was better to get your balls shot off during the war, or wear them off like Godwin before!


Bike? His bike was very good for the time, four gear hub, total around 30 lbs. Shows you ‘it wasn’t about the bike, it was about the egg butties’. Both my bikes are better, even my mountain bike weighs less! He may have carried spares, butties, and odds and ends, because of the long days. Reports say he wore Wellington boots (on rainy days) but this is the only bit I am at odds with, There were shoe coverings even then, and his kit would have worked very well. The seat was leather and not very nice, but he would have worn padding.

What are the two toy cyclists in the photos? I live in France and they are very common little figures, Tour de France riders, cycling is still big here, Come Sunday even the grand dads are out, even me.