85 Years Old and 1,700 km Covered in 17 Days

Jack and II haven’t met too many 85 year olds in my time! Especially one who has ridden around Australia three times, a distance of 14,900 km in 68 days. The last round-Australia venture at age 68 years where he covered 220 km per day with three ‘younger’ veteran cyclists aged 50, 51 and 56. At 85 years of age, Jack Griifin rode from Brisbane to Cairns in northern Queensland, a distance of 1,700 km in 17 days straight covering 100 km per day. Isn’t he just too old?

Three weeks ago I was reading the local Saturday paper. Page 3 had a photo of an 85 year-old veteran cyclist who was riding from Brisbane to Cairns (1700 km) to raise monies to purchase an Electrocardiogram for his local hospital.

I’ve always been inspired by people who ‘dare to be different’, who say ‘I’m never too old!’ or ‘who says I can’t do it, just watch me!’ I read the story and forgot about the guy (pictured with me after a training ride).

Two weeks later I was driving up a main road in my home town of Rockhampton about 1.30pm. The first Saturday in years I have done it, and the first time in months I have missed my regular road race with my Cycling Club always held at that time. I pulled my car off the road 400m ahead of him, stood on the side of the road and waved him over.

“Are you that bloke riding from Brisbane to Cairns” I asked. “Sure am, mate” came the spritely reply. I shook his firm hand and congratulated him on not only ‘having a go’ but doing it at 85 years old was an even greater achievement. As I was to discover later, he just accepted it as normal that he could do it – age was no barrier to Jack Griffin!

Two minutes later his support vehicle popped up – a van with “Adventure before Dementia” scrolled over it. Out jumped his former media commentator support man, Ken Munyard, Jack’s manager, mechanic, media liaison, photographer, and baby-sitter!  He also wrote regular updates on Jack’s adventure that can be read at an awesome website: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/griffin85

As it happened we had stopped in front of a local Pizza joint and the manager was the brother of one of the kids I coach in netball. He gave us a great deal on food and drinks and we sat down for a feed. Jack and Ken stayed the night at our house, were fed and watered, and had their first bath in a week! Over the next week I received regular updates on their progress via both Ken and Jack’s calls. On their return trip through Rockhampton, the lad stayed at my house again – very tired after a 1100 km drive from Cairns!

I took the opportunity to quiz Jack on how he maintained such awesome physical and mental health. Below are some questions and the answers he gave. There are lessons to be learnt!

Peter: Jack, why have you aged so well?

Jack: When I was 25 my mum and I went to a Doctor said I’d live forever because I don’t worry about anything. Enjoy life while you are here!

Peter: What three bit of advice would you give to younger athletes?

Jack:

  1. Never lose the flame of enthusiasm, life is a mental thing!
  2. Never drink, smoke or eat rubbish food. I like to eat fresh and raw food and eat small meals regularly so that I graze all day.
  3. Be strong mentally and always smile and be happy!

Peter: What is it about Cycling that you love so much?

Jack: It’s the freedom – I love to just hop on and disappear – it invigorates me! Every day I get out of bed and ask myself “where will I go today?” I can’t do it when I’m dead so I’m going to make the most of it now!

Peter: What are your fondest memories?

Jack:

  1. My first big ride when I was 14 years old. It was 1938, I woke up one morning at 4am and decided to ride 145 miles (232 km) from my home in Wangarratta to Melbourne to visit my auntie. It took me 9 hr 55 min (Jack’s memory for facts and figures is unbelievable. He remembers number plates of cars he had in the 1940’s and times from races he did 50 years ago and who won and by how much!). I ate sandwiches that I carried and drank from a water bottle that we used to carry on the front of the handlebars in those days.
  2. My first job was hairdressing in Wangarratta in 1940 when I was 15 years old. Because of the war, business was slow so Dad how owned the business sent me to work in a larger town, Geelong. Two weeks after I started, I missed my mates from school so much I rode 190 miles (304 km) home to see them and mum and dad!
  3. My record-setting “Round-Australia” record of riding 14,900 km in 68 days to beat some Danish riders who had done 14,000 km in 80 days! Four of us (others were 50, 51 and 56 years old) rode an average of 220 km per day with the longest day between Esperance and Norsman in Western Australia, a distance of 312 km.
  4. This trip will also be a huge achievement and hold great memories!

Peter: Who are the people you admire?

Jack: The old bike riding champions from Australia’s past. Sir Hubert Opperman who I met in 1934 doing the Victorian centenary Bike Race. I collected his card and was in awe of him. Did you know he once rode 489 miles (782 km) in 24 hours on a track? Another guy I loved was Sid Patterson.

Below are the some of Jack Griffin’s AFFIRMATIONS and QUOTES ON LIFE. Enjoy!

  • I’m planning to live to 100 plus or die in the attempt!!
  • It is better to have no money and a bicycle, than it is to have no bicycle and money!
  • You’re never old until regrets take the place of dreams!

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