Rudy Pospisil has now ridden halfway around the world on his bike while raising funds and awareness for cancer. If all goes well, he'll reach 24,000km this year to guarantee himself a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records as a firefighter circling the globe.
It's quite an achievement for a man who wasn't sure at one point whether he'd even be alive to achieve anything.
Pospisil was diagnosed with cancer a decade ago after a bad streak in which every family member was diagnosed with some variation of the disease — even his dog.
Determined to turn a negative into a positive, he decided to follow the example set by Terry Fox and others and raise funds and draw attention to the disease, and — leveraging firefighters in other communities to help raise money — started to ride long distances. A second homeowner in Whistler, you've probably passed him on his bike a few times while he's been training for his long rides on his touring bike.
His first journey covered nine countries in Europe, and in North America he's cycled from Vancouver to Mexico, then across the southern U.S. to Florida — a distance of 9,000 kilometres. He had planned to ride from Sydney to Cairns in Australia this year, but decided to put that off until next year and instead do a trip that will take him from Portugal to Italy and further on to the Middle East and Iran.
On his trips, Pospisil contacts fire departments around the world to host fundraisers, knowing how important cancer is to those in his profession.
"We have up to a seven-time greater risk of contracting almost a dozen different cancers than the average person because of our occupation," said Pospisil. "Firefighters will come out and ride with me in cities around the world and help arrange fundraising events. It's always great to meet fellow firefighters from around the world and work together for a common cause and share stories. The hard part is to not have too much of a party the night before I ride."
As well, he rides with a lot of people who have survived cancer and are actively fighting it, something that continues to give him inspiration.
"I have met many cancer patients on my rides that came out," he said. "Many were terminal and would not live much longer. The strength and optimism and little fear they had they were near the end was inspiring to me to carry on. I have the easy part, cycling around the globe; they have the hard part battling this disease or facing their own mortality."
The trip across the southern U.S. was interesting. Pospisil said he was run off the road a few times by rednecks. Following a section along the Mexican border was also enlightening.