Published: 19/04/2017 07:00 - Updated: 18/04/2017 10:42

Roddy's life of sporting greatness has new chapter

Written byNeil MacPhail

Lions rampant: Roddy Riddle celebrates coming second in the gruelling 350 mile Arctic Ultra footrace last month.
Lions rampant: Roddy Riddle celebrates coming second in the gruelling 350 mile Arctic Ultra footrace last month.

TO say he is an Inverness sporting legend is a vast understatement.

Few local people or indeed further afield will not have heard of Roddy Riddle, the Commonwealth Games cyclist and cycling record breaker who later in life became a successful marathon and ultra-marathon runner despite being diagnosed with type 1 diabetes.

While lesser mortals would have been devastated at this illness bombshell, superathlete Roddy treated it like all other aspects of his life – as a challenge to be overcome, and since that day in 2008 he has made it his life’s mission to prove that type 1 does not mean an end to sporting achievement and an active life.

Only weeks after coming second in the 6633 Arctic Ultra, one of the world’s toughest races, Roddy is going to open a new chapter that will delight his many fans.

Appropriately for his 50th year, Roddy’s life story is going to be made into a book and he is delighted that Richard Moore who was ghost writer for Scots cycling ace Sir Chris Hoy’s book, is to do the same for him.

It is bound to be a fascinating volume - and again it will be stressing Roddy’s goal of spreading the word that no one should let diabetes rule their life.

Roddy well remembers how he took up cycling after he visited his Auntie Jill and cousin Eric Riddle.

Roddy said: "I was 13 and my aunt showed us an advert in the paper saying that Clachnacuddin Cycling Club were holding a beginners’ event and suggested we should go along.

"I turned up in my BMX bike while everyone else were on road bikes. The BMX was single speed and the club took us on a run out to Culloden and back about 30 miles and not very comfortable on my wee bike. I quickly traded up to a road bike.

"It was a French made Gitane with steel wheels that I bought from Ian Bishop’s shop in the town, and after that I was out with the Clach Cycling Club every Sunday putting in the miles."

When Roddy was 14, he took part in his first competitive event, a 10 mile time trial in Forres with his big brother Kenny.

The pair would have no problem warming up prior to the event _they cycled the near-30 miles there, took part in the trial, then cycled home.

Roddy said: "I gained my first cap for Scotland when I was 18 and five years later Kenny and me were selected to represent Scotland at the 1994 Commonwealth Games in Victoria, Canada.

"I came in 9th but took comfort from the fact that it was the first year that race was opened to professional cyclists, and some riders had taken part in the Tour de France."

The following year was the highlight of his cycling career when he broke the Scottish one hour record at Meadowbank, Edinburgh, a record set by none other than The Flying Scotsman, Graeme Obree.

"I managed 46.570k in the hour, about 250metres or one lap further than Graeme. There was quite a crowd down from Inverness for that occasion."

As his competitive cycling began to taper down, in 1997 Roddy took part in his first Highland Cross, the famous duathlon from Kintail to Beauly _ and won.

It was in 2008 when not competing, that Roddy realised he was ill. He lost about 3stone in three weeks and soon it was confirmed he had type 1 diabetes."

Right from the start, he refused to accept it was the end of his active life.

He said: "I was determined to continue running. I got on the treadmill at home so I could find out what happened to my body in a safe environment.

"That gradually gave me the confidence to go out running further afield and to race once more.

"I did my first ultra in 2013. I wanted to raise awareness for type 1 diabetes, and entered the Marathon des Sables in the Sahara Desert and raised £26,000 for two diabetes charities. I finished 273 out of 1050 fellow competitors, but more importantly I finished."

Last year Roddy went from the burning sands to the frozen wastes of Canada to take part in the 350 mile, eight day Arctic Ultra regarded by many as one of the toughest footraces on the planet, in which entrants have to be self sufficient and pull their survival gear on trollies called pulks.

This did not go well for Roddy, and he was forced to pull out with back pain. He felt he had let his followers down, and vowed he would not be beaten by the Arctic Ultra.

This year he returned and came in second.

He said: "I did not expect a podium place, so it was a proud moment with my Lion Rampant Scotland flag. I made better preparations this year and treated the race with more respect. I also switched to a four-wheel pulk because the two wheeler I used the previous year bobbed about too much and put a strain on my back."

Defiant Roddy also claimed the distinction of being the first type 1 diabetic to complete the 350-mile challenge.

"Since I have come back from the Arctic it is amazing the families who have been in contact with me thanking me for inspiring their youngsters who have diabetes," he said. "I’m the first Scotsman to have ever finished the race, throw in a cheeky second place and finish just over a day ahead of the race deadline in just under seven days. But the most important thing is raising awareness for what can be achieved with type 1 diabetes and to show it shouldn’t stop you achieving your goals in life.

"My motto is ‘Rule type 1 diabetes, don’t let it rule you.’"

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