Tommy Godwin was born in 1912 in Stroke on Trent, England. To help support his family he worked as a delivery boy for a grocer and with the job came a heavy bike with a metal basket. The basket was hacked off and the 14 year old Godwin won his first 25-mile (40km) time trial in 65 minutes.
Godwin left his amateur status at the Potteries Cycling Club to join the Rickmansworth Cycling Club as a professional. After more than 200 road and time trial wins, the mileage record beckoned.
At 5 am on January 1st, 1939 Godwin set out to bring the record home. He wasn't alone; two other British riders started that day, Edward Swann and Bernard Bennett. Swan crashed after 939.6 miles, but Bennet fought it out with Godwin for the rest of the year. In sportsmanship their support teams, which included pace-makers, stopped at 50,000 miles to let the riders complete the attempt on personal merit.
Godwin's bike weighed more than 30 pounds. As war came he rode through blackouts, his lights taped to a glow. Silk knickers were substituted for chamois inserts and Godwin maintained his vegetarian diet. After two months Godwin increased his daily average beyond 200 miles a day, and on June 21, 1939 completed 361 miles in 18 hours, his longest ride of the record.
On October 26, 1939 Godwin rode into Trafalgar Square having completed 62,658 miles, gaining the record with two months to spare. He rode through the winter to complete 75,065 miles in the year. In May 1940 after 500 days of riding he secured the 100,000-mile record as well. Godwin dismounted and spent weeks learning how to walk before going to war in the Royal Air Force.
Godwin returned in 1945, keen to race as an amateur. However, despite a petition by fellow cyclists the governing bodies ruled that having ridden as a professional he was barred from amateur status. Godwin became trainer and mentor to the Stone Wheelers. Godwin died at the age of 63, returning from a ride to Tutbury Castle with friends.
The record is still open for challenge but not entry in the Guinness Book of Records whose editors say further attempts would be too dangerous.
This article was written by Dave Barter for CTC www.phased.co.uk