Movement central to ultra-cyclist

Septuagenarian cyclist reaches a gruelling goal

Ken Bonner takes a breather from riding his bike on Newport Avenue. Bonner recently completed a 70-hour bike ride to celebrate his 70th birthday.

At first glance, Kenneth Bonner appears to be a normal, older gentleman. That is, until he walks across the room with an effortless ease of movement – a grace that implies an atypical level of strength and fitness for a man of 70.

Bonner’s clear eyes and dimpled smile complete the impression, as they’re alive with a spirited love of life that sets him apart from the lassitude ordinarily associated with a septuagenarian.

“The way I see it, so long as I keep moving, they can’t bury me,” Bonner said with a grin.

Movement is something that defines the life of this remarkable Oak Bay resident. He is one of only two people to have run all 33 Victoria Marathons. He’s run a few other marathons as well, 142 more, to be exact, including the race in Boston (twice) and the Jungfrau Marathon, a Swiss event in the shadow of the Eiger Mountain that involves a steep course that reaches an elevation of 2,205 metres and is enough to crush the athletic aspirations of people half Bonner’s age. “The Jungfrau was a challenge. We came around a bend in the road and there was this little track leading straight up. People looked like miners climbing single file on all fours. It went straight up and I said, ‘no, that can’t be the route,’” recalled Bonner. “But it was.”

He smiled as he recounted his first attempt at running a marathon. “It was in Sooke in 1961,” said Bonner. “I ran in hushpuppies with the toes cut out. I did it because I wondered if I could. I’ve always looked at challenges that way, I wonder if – and then I do it.”

It’s that curiosity that first led Bonner to try the sport of marathon cycling, or randonneuring. “I wondered if,” he said.

Randonneur involves non-stop rides of 200 to 1,600 kilometres along a predetermined course with checkpoints along the way. The objective is to finish within a set time limit, the goal is not to race, but to finish. Bonner has ridden in more of those events than he can count since he completed his first 200-km event in 1986.

He now holds numerous course records, including one set during his 1,200 km. Rocky Mountain ride, an event he completed when he was 65 years old. He did that ride in 50 hours and 34 minutes, breaking a record established eight years earlier by a 42-year-old member of the Austrian military.

Some of his more memorable rides are world famous. He’s completed the 1,200-km Paris-Brest-Paris event five times, the 1,400-km London-Edinburgh-London event twice and courses of at least 1,200-km each in Colorado, Kansas and between Boston and Montreal (return).

During that time he’s been chased by dogs, met a host of fascinating fellow competitors, suffered both hypothermia and hyperthermia, and generally loved every minute of his rides.

Perhaps Bonner’s most incredible ride to date happened after his 70th birthday, and wasn’t a part of any organized event.

“There’s something about the turning of another decade that made me wonder if,” he said.

Bonner decided that he would mark this milestone by cycling nonstop, an hour for every year of his life. “I wondered if I could do 70 hours with my butt on the saddle,” he laughed. “It took me three tries.”

On his third attempt he finally achieved his dream by riding his 202-km Vancouver Island training course eight times in a little more than 71 hours. During that time he endured freezing temperatures, rain, sun and wind.

“There’s a life lesson in that,” said Bonner. “If you want to accomplish something, you have to say to yourself, ‘I’m going to do it’, and you’ll probably manage it in the end.”

Bonner still rides about 200 km a day to stay fit and is looking forward to his next events.

“Riding gives me a lot of time to think,” he said. “I’m trying to figure out what I’ll do for my 80th birthday.”

More information on the sport of randonneuring can be found at randonneurs.bc.ca.

Just Posted

Pedestrian struck on Quadra Street

A pedestrian was struck by a vehicle on Quadra Street at Hulford… Continue reading

Our Place celebrates Christmas in July

Afternoon barbecue serves up turkey burgers and Santa hats under the hot sun

Affordable housing idea dead for Central Park, idea shifts to Royal Athletic Park lot

Underground parking with housing units above to be considered for existing lot

Police respond after dog left in vehicle at the movies

West Shore RCMP determined the animal was not in distress

VIDEO: Trudeau shuffles familiar faces, adds new ones to expanded cabinet

Justin Trudeau shuffles his front bench Wednesday to install the roster of ministers that will be entrusted with leading the Liberal team into next year’s election.

‘Amazing Race Canada’ competitors face B.C. challenge

They drove Corvettes, mastered falconry basics, and ate blueberry pie in the Cowichan Valley

Grizzly bear jumps in river, chases B.C. kayaker

The bear got a bit too close for comfort along the Elaho River near Squamish

Island man convicted of 1999 sex assault at Fraser Valley music festival

James Allen Redden, formerly of Nanaimo, was found guilty of three charges

Parks Canada looks to shine light on cloudy future for historic sites

A plan is in place to produce 10-year plans designed to turn around sagging attendance figures

B.C. poet shines a bright light on struggle with homelessness

Book launch for John La Greca’s Homeless Memorial is at Vernon’s Gallery Vertigo July 21.

Former Vike returns to lead women’s rowing program

Williams rowed for UVic, Oxford and Canada

Ontario police say attack on Muslim man was motivated by hate

Two men, aged 27 and 19, have been charged with assault in the incident

Most Read