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Guinness World Record on the cards as 86-year-old finishes gruelling Lejog cycle run – 'there were a few nightmare moments but we're super proud of dad'


By David G Scott

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The Caithness Courier caught up with a sprightly octogenarian at the end of a mammoth cycle ride on Sunday that is expected to be soon verified as a world record.

Martin Harvey is one person who likes to boast about how old he is and for good reason after completing a Land's End to John O'Groats (Lejog) cycle run at the age of 86 – which will hopefully see him enter the hall of fame for a Guinness World Record as the oldest man to cycle the iconic route.

Martin Harvey relaxes at the Seaview Hotel in John O'Groats after his mammoth cycle ride across the UK. The top he is wearing shows the St Giles Hospice he is raising money for. The hospice treated his late wife Jackie in her final days. Picture: DGS
Martin Harvey relaxes at the Seaview Hotel in John O'Groats after his mammoth cycle ride across the UK. The top he is wearing shows the St Giles Hospice he is raising money for. The hospice treated his late wife Jackie in her final days. Picture: DGS

"I will be 87 in 11 days time, on the 27th of September," said Martin.

"The way the Guinness World Records (GWR) do it is by years and days so it will be 86 and 355 days. I hope to set the record after sending the relevant information to GWR to authenticate it. There may be other people who have been older than me who have done it but they can't produce the evidence to be in the book [of world records]."

Martin retired from Barclays bank in 1992 and joined a local cycling club – regularly taking part in cycling events around the world. He started the Lejog journey on September 4 and had contacted GWR about the attempt 10 months before. Being a regular cyclist and barring accidents along the route he fully expected to complete the journey over the 14 allotted days.

Martin undertook the Lejog cycle run with daughters Julie Grigg (left) and Michaela Casey. Picture: DGS
Martin undertook the Lejog cycle run with daughters Julie Grigg (left) and Michaela Casey. Picture: DGS

The pensioner hails from Sutton Coldfield, north east of Birmingham, and set out with his daughters Michaela Casey and Julie Grigg on the 1000-mile plus cycle run from Land's End – being supported by Peak Tours along the way which set up pit stops and arranged accommodation at the various stages.

"We have to give 10 minutes of footage a day of signposts and suchlike as part of the authentication process. There have to be two witnesses at the start and two at the finish." Asked if it would be possible to cheat, Martin said that GPS evidence is also collated throughout the 14 days. "If I got on a bus or anything like that the tracker would suddenly show me doing 20mph and it would obviously be wrong."

Peak Tours provided support for Martin and his daughters as they journeyed across the UK. Picture: DGS
Peak Tours provided support for Martin and his daughters as they journeyed across the UK. Picture: DGS

The current record holder for the route is Alex Menarry who was 85 years and 291 days old when he completed the journey on September 25, 2018. "It would be nice if I could have done it 10 days later when I hit 87 but I've done it with Peak Tours and it fitted in with their schedule."

Martin and his daughters were also undertaking the journey to raise money for St Giles Hospice which supported the family during the illness and death of his wife Jackie. A fundraising page has been set up for the charity which can be found at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/martin-harvey15

The initial target of £3,000 has been well exceeded and is currently standing at £5,873 – and will probably accumulate more funds as media outlets interview Martin. He said that BBC Radio 2 had him lined up for an interview on Tuesday morning for the Zoe Ball show.

Martin's daughter Julie said that she was confident enough to undertake the journey being an experienced cyclist. "The main challenge for me was providing all the documentation for GWR. I had a camera mounted on my bike, a GPS tracker on his bike as well as a Garmin tracker, and we've been collecting signatures from witnesses along the way," she said. "We had a mechanical issue with dad's bike on the last leg and he had to do it with just two gears."

The Seaview Hotel in John O'Groats where Martin and his two daughters were relaxing after the Lejog cycle run. Picture: DGS
The Seaview Hotel in John O'Groats where Martin and his two daughters were relaxing after the Lejog cycle run. Picture: DGS

Michaela said there were a few "nightmare moments" along the route and "we sometimes got the fingers" from drivers but things improved the further north they got. "The weather got colder admittedly and the headwind was brutal at times."

Interviewed in a room at the Seaview Hotel, just a couple of hours after finishing up, Martin said he was "very emotional" after completing the journey and felt a "tremendous sense of achievement". Michaela said she was "super proud" of her dad and felt exhilarated. Julie said it "hadn't all sunk in yet" and added that she was dreading doing all the paperwork to verify the record. "We've been all healthy along the way but we're all looking forward to a little drink tonight before we head back home."


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