90-year-old retired vicar likely to enter record books as oldest Land's End to John O'Groats cyclist
A 90-year-old retired vicar seems likely to beat Martin Harvey's record breaking Land's End to John O'Groats (Lejog) cycle run last year to become the oldest person to complete the gruelling journey.
Peter Langford, a retired vicar, set off on his epic Lejog trek on August 23, just three days after celebrating his 90th birthday and said it was his fourth end-to-end cycle run in the last 16 years.
"I took it very, very slowly because of my age and it took me 30 days," said Peter who arrived at the iconic Groats signpost on September 21.
I booked all my accommodation in advance and for the first 10 days my youngest son followed along with a Dormobile. On the first day, from Land's End to the Lizard, I did 62 miles but after that it was mostly 40-45. It was 1119 miles altogether and I had three rest days."
Peter says that bad arthritis in his knees failed to slow his progress. He admits it affects his walking but when he gets on a bike he feels "30 years younger" as the condition gives him no pain when cycling. "All the weight is on your backside, not on your legs and knees, so it wasn't a problem."
While undertaking the cycle run, he said he had a few issues with his brakes. "I really didn't want to have an accident going downhill and had to have my brakes adjusted three times on the journey."
Five years ago, Peter did another Lejog cycle run by himself and with heavy panniers but this time he had several friends and family cycling or driving along with him for different parts of the journey. "That human part of it was great," he says.
Peter found that he could often cycle the whole day without having a meal but every nine miles he would stop and have a "refined sugar tablet" with lots of water. Talking about one moment when he almost called it a day on the whole excursion, he said: "There was one particularly very long steep hill in Cumbria where I just managed to get to the top in my lowest possible gear and absolutely panting. Then I turned the corner and it was the same again! I knew I couldn't cycle up it so I had to push the bike.
"After that I could hardly cycle, even on a slight slope. I said to my eldest son – who was cycling with me for three days – 'I don't think I can do this!'. But I took two sugar tablets and in 10 minutes I was recovered – it was blood-sugar."
Peter said he was latterly a vicar on a council estate in Leeds but before that he taught in West London and, together with his wife, set up a centre for school groups in Suffolk run by a small Christian community. He retired 25 years ago and his wife Sally passed away 16 years ago – an event that spurred him on to undertake his first Lejog cycle run as a form of therapy to help him through the bereavement. Peter was born in London but was evacuated to Hertfordshire because of the war. His children were all born in East Ham where the family lived for 11 years.
Describing the final push to John O'Groats and his arrival at the finishing line, Peter said: "I felt relief but also enormous gratitude for the amount of kindness, friendship and generosity along the way. As a Christian I felt people's prayers.
"I stopped at the Castle of Mey for lunch so I could arrive at the planned time of 4pm as there were some people waiting for me there. The coast from Bettyhill to John O'Groats is really beautiful, isn't it?"
Peter created a JustGiving page as a fundraiser in aid of two homeless charities – the Salvation Army and Access Community Trust – and hopes to raise £50,000 that will be split between the two. He has already raised close to £40,000 from 860 supporters. Anyone wishing to donate to the good causes can do so at this link: www.justgiving.com/campaign/peterlangford
"I am aware of my good fortune in having a home to live in. It makes me very aware of those who are homeless and I pray for them almost everyday."
Peter is a member of charity group Cycling UK which congratulated him on his "remarkable achievement".
In September last year, Martin Harvey completed his Lejog cycle run at the age of 86 and achieved a Guinness World Record (GWR) as the oldest man to cycle the route. Peter will need to provide all the necessary evidence to GWR for his achievement to be recognised as an official world record.