81-year-old breaks record to become oldest woman to cycle from Land's End to John o' Groats

Mavis Paterson has raised more than £50,000 for charity in memory of her three adult children who died within four years of each other

Mavis Paterson at the beginning and end of her journey (Mavis Paterson)

An 81-year-old has become the oldest woman to cycle from Land's End to John o' Groats, with the journey taking just over three weeks to complete.

Mavis Paterson, from Dumfries and Galloway in Scotland, completed the 960-mile ride in memory of her three adult children who died within four years of each other earlier this decade.

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Throughout her record attempt Mavis has been fundraising for Macmillan Cancer Support, a charity she began to support after her mother and sister both died from cancer. Initially setting a target of £20,000, the fundraising total on her JustGiving page (opens in new tab) currently sits at more than £50,000, with more than 1,387 supporting the cause.

The Guinness Book of Records confirmed that if Mavis completed the journey she would become the oldest woman to complete the journey that spans the most southernly and northernly points of the United Kingdom.

Mavis started the journey on Friday May 30 and completed it on Saturday June 22, the expedition taking a total of 24 days.

She completed the challenge alongside her friend Heather Curley in memory of Mavis' three children Sandy, Katie and Bob who were all in their forties when they died between 2012 and 2016.

Speaking on BBC Breakfast (opens in new tab), when she still had 20 miles to go before reaching John o' Groats, Mavis described the tumultuous and emotional rollercoaster of  her record attempt: "It really has been so hard, I didn't realise it was going to be so difficult.

"At points I thought I really can't do this, but I was driven because I have this fire in my belly. Although, it was absolutely dreadful and I wanted to give up so many times.

"The rain was more or less every day, some days you heard the noise of the rain battering down in the evening and morning and I hated it. At times we were in tears. It's so difficult to hear that rain in the campervan at night and know in the morning you have to get dressed and go out into it."

Speaking about how it's helped her with her grief, Mavis said: "I will never be able to forget what's happened, but I can take my mind off the children because the support and company has been amazing and I can think of other things.

"It's just when I'm alone I really become quite emotional, naturally, about the loss of my children because I love them so much and they're not here, and they wont be here at John o' Groats to welcome me. But I've had so much support and it's been therapeutic really."

The British World Tour outfit Ineos have supported Mavis on her journey and also donated £10,000 to her Macmillan fundraising efforts. "It's things like [raising the money for Macmillan] that make me happy and there were times when I thought I'd never be happy again," Mavis said.

"On this journey I've laughed and I've just been absolutely amazed at the support. I'm wearing an Ineos jersey because they've donated £10,000 and I just can't thank them enough for the support they have given us, they're wonderful."

What about her record attempt? Does Mavis think it will stand the test of time or will she have another go at the 874-mile route? "I don't think I could ever do this again, and if someone wants to break the record then fine, it's something I won't do again, it's just been so difficult," said Mavis.

You can donate to Mavis' JustGiving page here (opens in new tab).

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Hi. I'm Cycling Weekly's Weekend Editor. I like writing offbeat features and eating too much bread when working out on the road at bike races.

Before joining Cycling Weekly I worked at The Tab and I've also written for Vice, Time Out, and worked freelance for The Telegraph (I know, but I needed the money at the time so let me live).

I also worked for ITV Cycling between 2011-2018 on their Tour de France and Vuelta a España coverage. Sometimes I'd be helping the producers make the programme and other times I'd be getting the lunches. Just in case you were wondering - Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen had the same ham sandwich every day, it was great.