A Scottish ultra-endurance cyclist is the fastest woman to have cycled around the world unsupported. Jenny Graham (38) from Inverness circumnavigated the globe in 125 days, setting off from Berlin on 16 June and pedalling through four continents and 16 countries.
Jenny Graham has become the fastest woman to cycle around the world. Image by Jenny Graham
On Thursday, 18 October Jenny cycled back to the Brandenburg Gate in Berlin after completing her four-month challenge. The record-breaker managed it in 19 days less than the 144 it took Italy’s Paola Gianotti in 2014. Jenny had set out on the journey to see how far she could push herself. In the last 33 hours of her journey, Jenny cycled for 292 miles (470km) non-stop and was greeted by ecstatic family, friends and well-wishers when she finally took her foot off the pedal.
Explaining why she undertook the feat, Jenny – who works in social work and education – told Lonely Planet that she’d come to a “turning point” in her life. “I’m 38, my son had just moved out of home and I felt that nothing in my life had changed in a long time. You come to a natural turning point and it makes you question things like your life choices. I needed to make a life choice and this was it.”
Jenny had never been particularly sporty as a child but was introduced to ultra-endurance racing five years ago when she came across the Highland Trail 550, a long-distance self-supported mountain bike trek through the Scottish Highlands. It inspired her to set out on regular cycling challenges to improve her endurance. It wasn’t until last year that cycling became more than just a hobby for her. “I started to improve my record,” she said. “One day I’d do 200 miles (322km) and the next day I’d do 250 (402km), I started to think, ‘I’m getting pretty good at this.'”
Ultra-endurance cyclist Jenny Graham. Image by James Robertson
Jenny joined The Adventure Syndicate, a collective of female cyclists who support each other through training and workshops. She joined them in Spain for a training camp last year, availing of as many coaching sessions as possible and “having the craic with incredible people”. Shortly after that, she was offered a year’s free training from coach John Hampshire, a life-changing experience for the ambitious cyclist. “I’d never have been able to afford [the training] otherwise,” Jenny said. “I was welling up when I was picked. I felt like Charlie winning the golden ticket to visit Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory.”
With John’s training, Jenny took on endurance races such as the Highland 550 and the Arizona Trail Race but she continued to look for more ways to test her limits. She started thinking about the ‘Around the World’ record and felt like she was up for the challenge. Secretly, Jenny felt like she could beat the record and become the fastest woman to circumnavigate the globe. “Inwardly I was confident, deep down I knew that I could do it but at the same time I was a bit scared,” she said. “It was like I had impostor syndrome.”
Jenny set off from Berlin on 16 June and returned 125 days later. Image by Jenny Graham
While she was training, Jenny’s friend Mike Webster, who is a filmmaker, asked if she’d like to collaborate on a project. They decided that he’d document her ‘Around the World’ trip and from that moment, there was no going back. She had committed herself to the challenge. “The hardest part was getting to the start line,” said Jenny. “The people who’ve beaten these records, they’re my gods. I was so scared of putting myself out there but once I set off… that was me gone. I was happy.”
Jenny started her journey in Berlin on 16 June and cycled 15 hours a day unsupported, averaging 156 miles (251km) a day while carrying her own kit. She took four flights and a boat. The 18,000-mile (29,657km) route spanned across four continents and 16 countries: Germany, Poland, Latvia, Lithuania, Russia, Mongolia, China, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, the US, Portugal, Spain, France, Belgium and the Netherlands. Throughout her trip, Jenny cycled solo through the Gobi Desert, she got to see the Northern Lights and encountered moose and bears in the Canadian Rockies but one particular country stood out for her: “Mongolia was beautiful,” she said. “The people, culture and scenery. Actually, the whole section from Siberia to China was just so amazing.”
Jenny was 19 days faster than Paola Gianotti in 2014, who currently holds the world record and more than a month faster than British-German cyclist Julia Buhring in 2012, the first woman to hold the record. To make Jenny’s record official, Guinness World Records still needs to ratify the data.
You can see more from Jenny’s ‘Around the World’ challenge here
and follow the work of The Adventure Syndicate here.
Posted originally on : https://www.lonelyplanet.com/news/2018/10/28/fastest-woman-cycle-around-the-world/