The story of the Land's End to John O'Groats cycling record is epic. Paul Jones has created a beautiful and gripping account about the people who have undertaken this record. The End to End is 842 miles and the current men's record holder did it in 43 hours, but people have been doing it since the 1880s. They are a fascinating collection of individuals that make the pages of this book so engrossing.
Although I ended up loving this book, my first impression was not great. This is because it opens with a grim account of the author starting his own End to End Journey. He doesn't hold back on his negative experience of Land's End. There's also a lot of introspection from the author because he is going through a challenging time in his life. I think I had this romantic vision of what riding Land's End to John O'Groats is like and these opening pages somewhat ruined that vision.
However, I read on and soon realised that this honest and realistic account is what makes this book so brilliant. It doesn't try to sugar coat a journey that can actually be hell, especially for those trying to break the record. It's a journey that involves unbelievable physical and mental challenges.
The author is going through challenges of his own and shares this with refreshing honesty and openness. Although I wasn't initially keen on the parts of the book where the author tells us about their personal challenges I soon felt that it was absolutely appropriate to the theme of this book. It's about men and women who have endured the torture of the End to End.
It is no exaggeration to describe this as torture. In trying to break the record attempt it was very common for riders to experience hallucinations and suffer extreme physical toil. Jones sets up interviews with some of the greats in the history of the End to End. He visits them in their homes and they tell him what it was like to undertake the record. It is a fascinating insight into what drives people to do extraordinary things, like the End to End.
I enjoyed this book a lot. It is very well written and the author has a talent for making you feel like you are alongside these End to Enders, on the road. Suffering with them and feeling the elation at completing the journey.
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