After her three children died, 85-year-old Mavis Paterson cycled 1,000 miles around Scotland
Mavis Paterson has completed a series of endurance cycle rides raising money for Macmillan Cancer Support. (maviscycle/Instagram)
(CNN) — Cycling has become more than a habit for “Granny Mave,” as Mavis Paterson is known. It has become essential for her very being, her very reason for living after all three of her adult children passed away within four years of each other – Sandy in 2012, Katie in 2013 and Bob in 2016.
It was in memory of her children that the 85-year-old grandmother set out on her latest endurance challenge in May, cycling 1,000 miles around Scotland, beginning from the Mull of Galloway, before heading north, tracing the outline of the country until she reached the Mull of Galloway again.
“If I didn’t have my bicycle, and this is terrible to say, I don’t think I would want to live,” she told CNN Sport.
“To lose your complete family, it’s just unbelievable. My daughter once said, because one of her friends had died, and she said: ‘Oh mum, imagine losing a child.’ I said: ‘I know. I couldn’t imagine it.’ All mine have gone.”
Cycling has provided some solace, some way for her to cope with unimaginable loss.
Mavis Paterson plans to complete more endurance challenges in the future. (maviscycle/Instagram)
“It’s been hard for me, but I’ve managed and people say, ‘Oh, you’re strong,’ and I don’t know where the strength comes from,” she said. “They ask me. I don’t know. I cope, my bike helps and I’ve got wonderful friends.”
Paterson cycled every day for a month around the circumference of Scotland, navigating its undulating landscape, exposed roads and unpredictable weather. Every day, she woke up early and set out riding – covering up to 50 miles a day – and raising money for British-based charity Macmillan Cancer Support.
All along the route, Paterson recalled other cyclists coming out to keep her company, offering “terrific support,” some of them riding with her for several days at a time.
“A lot of them have all the cycling gear, the cleats in the bike and all the lycra,” she said. “I don’t have any of that stuff at all. I’ve got ordinary pedals. I can’t do (cleats)… I’d be falling off the bike all the time… I’m just a happy cyclist.”
Such support was a constant throughout Paterson’s odyssey across Scotland, culminating in a crowd at the finish line who had gathered to cheer her on.
“And in the middle of (the crowd), I’ve got a grandson who’s 6-foot-3-inches, and I saw him, and I just ran towards him and it was just so exhilarating,” she said, before adding that she celebrated her achievement with a glass of merlot.
Mavis Paterson hugs her grandson, William, at the end of her over 1,000 mile ride round Scotland. (maviscycle/Instagram)
Along the way, too, she celebrated her 85th birthday, an occasion marked by a party in the Scottish town of Moffat, in between summitting hills on her ride.
“I hope I don’t have to go off my bicycle,” Patterson recalls thinking when cycling over the steepest hill on her ride.
“But I didn’t. I managed to get the top. I huffed and puffed and people say: ‘Why don’t you get an electric bike?’ And I say: ‘Well, no, no, I don’t want a bike that does all the work.’ I want to do the work on the hills, so that when I get to the top, I say: ‘Hey, I did that.’”
‘If that old lady can do it’
Previously accustomed to running marathons and half marathons, Paterson took up cycling when her knees began giving her problems.
She started setting herself challenges; in 2008, she cycled across Canada with her friend, though she rode part of it solo when her friend suffered health problems.
Cycling across Saskatchewan province, Paterson remembers “miles and miles of roads and fields (with) nothing really there,” and “although I was lonely, I never felt lonely… I used to talk to my bicycle… and make a joke of it all.”
Then in 2019, she cycled the length of Great Britain, from its most southern point at Lands End to its most northern point at John O’Groats, becoming the oldest ever woman to complete the famous route.
Mavis Paterson celebrates her 85th birthday in Moffat, Scotland. (maviscycle/Instagram)
With each challenge, Paterson raised money for Macmillan Cancer Support – which provides healthcare, advice and support for those affected by the disease – and her cycle around Scotland alone has so far raised almost £70,000 ($88,000) for the charity, more than double her initial target of £30,000 ($38,000).
“I’m just amazed at how generous people are, and I’m so glad I can give money like that to them,” she said.
The training for such an endeavor required Paterson to go out cycling in all types of weather, five or six times a week.
“When you’re my age, if you don’t train and you think you can go do something, well you can’t,” she says. “It’s tough training. The training I managed, I didn’t feel old at all.”
Paterson intends to embark on more endurance challenges and fundraising in the future, continuing to ride in memory of her children.
“I know people have got on their bikes and thought, ‘If that old lady can do it, I can do it.’ And also people who have been a bit depressed and thought, ‘Oh gosh, I shouldn’t be like this. Look at poor Mave, she’s lost all her children.’ So a lot of people have taken up cycling because of my cycle rides and just inspired people apparently,” she said.
“People keep saying that I’m an inspiration. Well, if I am that’s great, I’m happy about that.”
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