Rollin’, rollin’, rollin’…

Long-distance cyclist rides again

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Because the need never stops, neither does marathon cyclist Arvid Loewen.

The Guinness world record-holding, 65-year-old grandfather hit the road again earlier this month, but he wasn’t riding across Canada or the United States this time. He rode his bike around Birds Hill Park, again and again, to raise funds for Mully Children’s Family, a charity providing rescue and rehabilitation programs in Kenya.

It’s the cause to which Loewen has devoted the past decade-plus. In that time, he has raised more than $10 million for meals for the children and, at 50 cents per meal, that’s many children being fed what is often their only meal of the day.

Arvid Loewen cycled 725 kilometres between 7 a.m. on Aug. 6 and 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 7 to raise money for Mully Children’s Family, an African charity which feeds schoolchildren.

Loewen’s latest ride began at 7 a.m. on Aug. 6 in Birds Hill Park. Loewen set a rule to keep himself disciplined — he could only spend 60 minutes off his bike for any reason, including bathroom breaks and changing flat tires. Once the 60 minutes was used up, or he was too tired, he would stop.

There was already plenty of motivation to stay on the road, as long-time donors agreed to provide $168 for every kilometre Loewen cycled. He kept telling himself that at 50 cents per meal, that was 336 meals per click.

“It went very much as planned,” Loewen said a few days later. Fifteen hours after he started, Loewen had only used 10 minutes of his allotted hour off the bike. He was going strong.

Then night fell, and he began to get cold. He had to adjust the lighting on his bike; he was sweating underneath his clothes and started shivering. Loewen took 20 minutes to warm up in a car before continuing his ride.

The break served its purpose — Loewen hit 575 kilometres at the 24-hour mark. While tired, he kept reminding himself that every extra kilometre he could grind out meant another 336 meals.

Competitiveness kept him going, too; a friendly rival from Australia recently hit 674 kilometres in a similar event. Even though Loewen is two decades older, he wanted to beat that mark. He also wanted to top the 711 km he cycled 13 years ago,

Not surprisingly, Loewen beat his rival’s total and his old record. After 30 hours, 37 minutes and 725 kilometres, Loewen called an end to his trek shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Aug. 7.

“I said, ‘That’s it, I’m done,” Loewen said. “My family and some friends were able to meet me at the end.”

Members of his family greeted cyclist Arvid Loewen when he completed his 31.5 hour ride in Birds Hill Park.

The final totals won’t be in for a while, but Loewen is confident he raised at least $350,000. That’s 700,000 more meals. Cheques come in the mail daily, and there was a fundraising banquet on Aug. 10.

Loewen said his efforts would help children stay in school, which is the best route out of poverty. Many kids don’t get fed anywhere else, and must scrounge on the streets and in garbage dumps to stay alive.

That changes when at least one reliable meal comes in the classroom. Attendance jumps from 45 to 80 per cent when kids know they’ll be fed before they hit the books. A fed child is a more focused child, more capable of reaching their potential.

“When a child doesn’t get an education, what does their future look like?” Loewen asked.

Tony Zerucha

Tony Zerucha
East Kildonan community correspondent

Tony Zerucha is a community correspondent for East Kildonan. Email him at tzerucha@gmail.com

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