Peter is very likely to be the oldest person to have cycled from Land’s End in Cornwall to John o’Groats in Scotland at 90 years old. In this blog, he tells us about his fourth charitable journey on the renowned ride across the length of the UK.
The 90-year-old has been cycling the 1189-mile long LEJOG route for different charities in five-year intervals since his wife passed away 15 years ago. Credit: Peter Langford
A probable world record holder
Peter, who uses a walking stick and has arthritis in his knees, finds it easier to cycle than he does to walk.
The 90-year-old has been cycling the 1189-mile long LEJOG route for different charities in five-year intervals since his wife passed away 15 years ago.
At the time of her passing, he wanted a challenge to set his mind on and has kept up the tradition ever since.
This year's cycling adventure makes him a very probable, unofficial record holder for the oldest person ever to ride from Land's End to John o'Groats.
2023 marked his fourth completion of the long-distance route which spans between the two points furthest apart on mainland Britain.
"It’s the slowest of the four times I’ve done it - but certainly the most fulfilling"
This time, Peter chose to take more routes on A and B roads, rather than traffic-free paths, to shorten his journey to 1118 miles, and to avoid as many hills as possible.
Along his journey, he was joined by his three children, his two granddaughters and their husbands, and a friend who he met on the same trip 10 years earlier and the son of his closest school friend who passed away a few years ago.
His companions helped carry his panniers for the majority of his 31-day trip.
Peter has raised over £51,000 in online and offline donations for The Salvation Army and Access Community Trust – two charities which support homeless people.
He said: “With three rest days and an average of no more than 50 miles a day, it’s the slowest of the four times I’ve done it - but certainly the most fulfilling and enjoyable thanks to all the support I received along the way.
“The time with my close ones, strengthening those bonds between us really made the trip for me.
“It was lovely spending time with my children at different stages through beautiful scenery.
“It’s quite likely I am the oldest person to have cycled that route, but you never know there may have been someone who’s done it at the age of 100. I’d be interested to know.”
In 2022, Guinness World Records shared the story of the oldest male to complete the LEJOG route at the age of 86.
Peter has raised over £51,000 for two homeless charities. Credit: Sarah Roe
"These things are not achieved by your legs but by your head"
Peter explained how the key to his success was the training he did in the build up to his journey along with maintaining a strong mindset throughout.
“These things are not achieved by your legs but by your head – in other words, determination.”
Ahead of his charitable ride, since the start of 2023, Peter covered almost 3,500 miles on his bike to gear himself up for the journey in August.
He tried to find the steepest hills he could near his home in Suffolk but said nothing compared to the hills he faced at the start of his journey in Cornwall.
His route passed through “lots of wonderful scenery” starting with The Lizard Heritage Coast loop, through to Truro, Okehampton, Cheddar, Chepstow, Hereford, Shrewsbury, Manchester, Langholm, Edinburgh, Pitlochry, Inverness, Lairg and Bettyhill.
“I felt lucky because I didn’t have many headwinds and on the whole good weather.
“My energy held out too, although after one very long and very steep hill I had none left and could not think how I could go on.
"I was panting and couldn't even manage a slight hill.
“But two Dextrose tablets and lots of water dealt with it and after only about 10 minutes I was all right again.
"It was a matter of blood sugar, rather than my body being tired.
“When I got to John o'Groats I embraced the post and then knelt down on the ground and thanked God.
“How do I feel now it is finished? More than anything else huge gratitude.
"I'm so grateful to all my family and friends who gave me great encouragement along the way."
Using paper maps to guide the way
In preparation for his journey, Peter cut out maps from road atlases and used Sustrans’ paper route maps for almost all of the journey.
“I consulted the Sustrans maps from time to time when planning a route and to help me avoid hills.
“When family members and friends joined me, they helped with directions using digital maps on their phones."
"It’s the slowest of the four times I’ve done it - but certainly the most fulfilling." Credit: Peter Langford
Kindness and encouragement along the way
Wearing a bright yellow t-shirt which had ‘Land’s End to John o’Groats at the age of 90 for the homeless’ printed on the front, he attracted a lot of attention and support from passersby.
He remarked how he was met with more encouragement than he expected.
“So many people were so generous. One lady leant out of her car window in a traffic jam and gave me five pounds.
“Once or twice when my older son was with me, people anonymously paid for our refreshments and when I was waiting in a cafe while I was getting my bike brakes adjusted, the owner of the cafe called the bike shop and paid for my repairs without my knowing.
“The owner of a Perth B&B I stayed in refused to take money for my stay, so I gave the £110 to charity instead.
“He also insisted on taking me out for dinner and paying.
“It was all very heartwarming.”
The retired vicar stayed in youth hostels, B&Bs and through writing to churches along the way was able to find free accommodation.
Since returning from his charitable journey, Peter's been cycling 50 miles a week to keep up his fitness levels. Credit: Peter Langford
Since returning from his charitable journey, Peter's been cycling 50 miles a week to keep up his fitness levels.
Peter, who got into cycling after he retired, doesn’t own a car and getting around on his bike is his main mode of transport.
From doing his shopping with paniers, to visiting friends in other cities and leading rides for a cycling group.
When asked if he’s planning on doing another LEJOG adventure in the near future, he said:
“I’m not sure I would any time soon.
"I don't put any money on my doing it at 95.
“Although the last time I completed the route, I said that would be my last time.
“It took such an enormous amount of time and I neglected my reading and my French.
"I don’t intend to do a long ride again it is quite an effort I can keep fit without doing that.
"The furthest I might cycle is Cambridge as I have a friend there who I can visit and stay overnight with.
“We all know that exercise is one of the most important things and this has a big impact on wellbeing too.
“The bicycle is such a great invention. I was born in 1931 and I’ve seen the development of it over the course of my life.
“I suffer quite badly from arthritis in my knees and cycling really helps. I find it easier than walking."
Peter's family member followed him for the final three days of his journey and created a vlog of their adventure.
Words of advise
Peter offered some words of wisdom to anyone thinking of taking on a challenge like his. He said:
"Do plenty of training.
"Drink lots of water and drink before you need to.
"If you’re raising money go about that with as much care as possible - if you have people around you that could help you with getting the word out use that to your advantage.
"And you need to have a cause which is close to you, to spur you on."