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Whoever said retirement is a time to relax, maybe with a bit of gardening thrown in, clearly hasn't met Alex Menarry (UK).

The former nuclear physicist has always been active and is not one to shy away from a challenge, even one as gruelling as cycling almost continuously for 17 days straight.

He undertook this epic challenge to become the oldest person to cycle from Land's End to John o' Groats, which he completed aged 85 years and 291 days, and earn himself a spot in the upcoming Guinness World Records 2020.

Alex at Land's End before setting off

Land’s End is the most southerly point in England, while John o' Groats is at the most northerly point in Scotland, making it the longest continuous distance you can travel within UK. The two points are 874 miles (1,407 km) apart by main roads, and it typically takes just under 15 hours to drive the distance by car.

To put it into perspective, it's four times the distance from London to Paris, or one quarter of the Great Wall of China.

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It's a popular route for keen cyclists, runners and walkers within the UK to tick off their bucket list.

Completing the arduous journey is accomplishment enough for many, but Alex, who had completed the distance once before, decided to tackle it again to secure an official record title.

Alex with his cycling group

Alex previously completed the distance when he was 83 years old but hadn't gathered evidence along the way.

"Talking to my family, they encouraged me to do the ride again, this time planning to collect the data," he explained.

This time around, Alex wasn't taking any chances.

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His extensive preparation included route planning and GPX files, accommodation bookings, van support, and a kit bag including evening clothes, spare gear, his laptop and more.

With some help from his family, he also set up a website that provided background, route plans and a blog. You could even track his progress live. 

Alex started his attempt on the 8 September 2018 as part of a CTC cycling tour group with cyclist Martin Brown served as his witness for the entire attempt.

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The CTC tour's route from south to north is roughly 1,071 miles, to ensure a scenic and largely peaceful ride.

Though a keen cyclist – Alex also cycled from Dover to Durness and from the North to the South of France in 2018 – he still experienced some problems along the way.

The biggest problem was a sore that developed near his pelvic bone, which caused him some discomfort during the last leg of the journey.

Alex also had to overcome adverse weather conditions, including this mega-puddle

Apart from that, Alex said his body responded well to the challenge.

"This ancient frame managed 60 and 70 mile days remarkably well.

"Cardio-vascular capacity was equal to all the demands made of it. Hips, knees and ankles were no problem."

Alex with his grandson Robbie

With only one day’s rest in amongst 17 days cycling, Alex averaged 63 miles per day – and only stopped to walk twice on steep hills.

He was joined on eight of his stages by two friends and four members of his family, including two grandsons, Jamie and Robbie, giving him the boost to continue.

Alex’s exhausting attempt finished on 25 September, when he reached John o' Groats.

The cycling group at John o' Groats

Once his attempt was over, you'd think Alex would take a well-deserved break. But just two days after finishing his amazing feat, he was back on his bike for a cycling holiday in Calpe, on the Costa Blanca, Spain.

Upon his return, his grandson Robbie helped him submit his evidence.

Awaiting the results was a "nail-biting time" for Alex, and only heightened his relief and joy at securing the record.

"To say I am pleased and smug is a big understatement. The service they [Guinness World Records] render for stimulating many, many people to have a go at something can’t be under-estimated."

Alex is still keeping up his demanding cycling regime and has booked in six weeks’ worth of cycling trips so far this year.

With so many miles under his belt, we wonder if Alex will be returning for more record-breaking rides. But for now, Alex is happy with just the one.

"Good luck to the next challenger to knock me off my perch!"

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