Some people defy the odds and do extraordinary things that stretch our view of the possible. Most of the people mentioned here are well known because of the popularity of their sports. Others in more obscure sports have accomplished more amazing feats, less for the glory and more for the challenge. Florida resident Amanda Coker, whom I have yet to meet, is one of those. Her story is about an indescribable comeback that has become a world record for how far a human being can ride a bicycle in one year, 86,573 miles.
What Amanda finished yesterday is truly remarkable all by itself, but when we understand her back-story is when the jaw drops and the head shaking begins.
Ian Dille wrote a great article on Amanda yesterday in Bicycling, Is Amanda Coker For Real?, In it he reported that in 2011, Amanda and her father, Ricky, were riding near their home in North Carolina and were hit from behind by a distracted driver. Her father tells of lying in the road with a broken back, unable to even reach out to his motionless daughter, any father's nightmare. Amanda suffered from just about every traumatic brain injury symptom possible, and during her initial recovery, was transformed from an outgoing, bright student to someone who shied from people, had to quit school and couldn't work. And the medical bills piled up for both dad and daughter.
Three years later the family moved to Florida to try to start over, and while still recovering, in 2015 Amanda expressed an interest in getting back on a bike to overcome her fear. Shortly after, Amanda rode 3,000 miles across the U.S. with her dad following on a scooter, still unable to ride a bike. Amanda had sold her car to fund the trip. By early 2016 she had been challenged by Kurt Searvogel, the then current men's distance record holder, to make an attempt on the women's distance record of 29,603 miles, which had stood since 1937 as unbreakable.
May 14, 2016, she set off to chase that annual women's record, and smashed through it in 4 ½ months. Then she kept going. Thousands of those like me who have been watching her for the entire year saw her ride 12-14 hours a day through rain, hail, a wild fire, blistering heat, and chilling cold. Even the day hurricane Hermine rocked Florida she did 50 miles. She even got blisters on her hands from hanging on to the handlebars so hard in some of these storms. Relentless has become her middle name.
Some perspective. Strong amateur cyclists ride 300-600 miles a month. Crazy ones ride 800-1000 miles a month. I rode 11,079 miles in 2016, an average of 30.3 miles every day. I did at least one 100 mile ride every month, an average of 923 miles per month. Then there's Amanda. From May 15, 2016, to May 14, 2017, Amanda Coker has ridden an average of 237.1 miles every single day, 7,211 miles per month, and has only gotten stronger over time. Her longest rides came just last week, a number of them over 260 miles, and one for an incomprehensible 302 miles.
Business owners, take note. nothing you face is insurmountable.
Tommy Godwin set the men's record at 75,065 in 1939. Most bicyclists thought no man could ever break it. In 2015, Kurt beat it with 76,076 miles, and this year Amanda added an astonishing 10,497 miles to Kurt's mark.
Stand Up. Take Notice.
Amanda and her family have paid a big financial price to do this. But it has been worthy therapy for Amanda and a family recovering from a devastating few seconds in 2011. Amanda has a GoFundMe page. If there was ever someone you should want to reward for their human courage and their determination to make lemons into lemonade, this is one of those people, and one of those families.
What business lesson can we learn from Amanda? That we don't yet know what we're capable of as human beings, but that it's more than we imagine. No one in recorded history had ever broken the 4-minute mile in track until Roger Bannister did it in 1954. 63 years later, if you can't run a sub 4-minute, you're not a world-class runner. What Amanda has done will stretch not just bicyclists, but athletes, and hopefully business owners around the world for decades to come.
But wait, there's more.
In 1939, Tommy Godwin went on to ride for 500 straight days and exactly 100,000 mind-boggling miles. Today, having just ridden 86,537 miles in 365 days, Amanda Coker is starting her conquest of that 500-day record as well. At her current pace, she'll smash through it in 415-430 days, and could add as much as 15-18,000 ridiculous miles to that mark.
Let's fund that effort, not because we need someone to break Tommy Godwin's record, but because we need to reward people like Amanda Coker for an incredible comeback, and for showing us that we haven't yet figured out just what the human being is capable of accomplishing. And we need Amanda to show us more.
Enjoy your Roger Bannister moment, Amanda. Now we know what is possible on a bike, at least for now.
What is possible for you?