Rugged man conquers rugged terrain

Richard White, 81.

It takes incredible endurance and determination to cycle across Canada.

Nearly 8,000 km separate Victoria, B.C. from St. John's, N.L. and there is daunting terrain in between. But this didn't stop Richard White from undertaking the journey, with his own spin on it. In April, the 81-year-old, who has ankylosing spondylitis, began pedalling the distance, mostly around his hometown of Calgary.

"My intent was to not only cross the actual distance, but to simulate many components of what the challenge would entail," says Richard."I intentionally chose some big hills to climb (and descend), and I did a two-day mountain ride from Lake Louise, Alta. to Golden, B.C. and back. I faced several strong headwinds and a few episodes of chilling rain."

Inspired by other cyclists who have completed the cross-Canada journey, Richard wanted to push himself to shatter old boundaries. Ankylosing spondylitis is a challenging disease.

Since his diagnosis in 1994, Richard's spine and neck are often stiff and inflexible. He also had hip replacement surgery in 2011, which fortunately worked out marvellously. His journey took six-months to complete, and while he did it mostly on his own, he says he never felt alone.

"I was privileged to have friends ride 50-km stages with me on some occasions. My wife, Eve, and many others were also encouraging me the whole time. On Oct. 16, I achieved my 8,000 km goal, every blessed metre of it!"

Richard White, during his challengeThe highlight of his adventure was when, on that final day in October, six special friends joined him to cycle up a final hill, chosen to represent the climb up Signal Hill in St. John's. To his surprise, one of them had arranged for Global News to interview him before the final stretch.

"I was euphoric at the end. This is something beyond what he ever anticipated having the ability to do. It's the greatest feeling that I can only compare to what pro athletes must feel after winning a championship. At times it seemed impossible, but I never stopped, and I kept pushing." 

Richard is adamant: when you live with arthritis, you must find ways to keep going.

As a member of an outdoors club, the retired municipal planner also hikes weekly during the summer months and can be found cross-country skiing during winter.

"Stay active. Keep pushing. If I allowed arthritis to stop me, I would be more invalid now. If I didn't constantly do what I can to stay mobile, I could not have accomplished what I just did."