Amazing Race

At age 70, most people start to slow down. But Michael Patterson is doing the opposite. Now in his seventh decade, he’s preparing to race his bicycle across the country. Michael, who sits on the Board of Directors for The Trust for Public Land, is currently training to cycle across the continent along with three fellow septuagenarian teammates in the Race Across America (RAAM) this June.

Sponsored by UnitedHealthcare and benefiting The Trust for Public Land, Michael’s team—United 4 Health—will pedal from Oceanside, California, to Annapolis, Maryland, in a coast-to-coast cycling event that’s been compared in difficulty to climbing Mt. Everest.

“I’d known about RAAM some time–it’s the epitome of tough endurance bicycle racing,” says Michael. “I thought it would be a bold venture to ride the race at age 70—my competitive spirit isn’t dead yet.”

Competitive spirit, indeed. The United 4 Health team isn’t out for a leisurely ride; they’re looking to set a new record in the 70+ age group. The team will ride in relay fashion across the country, taking turns riding in short bursts of around 20 to 30 minutes each. The ride never stops, and the riders barely sleep. There’s little time to rest: to beat the current record of seven days, 16 hours, and 31 minutes, they must ride 18 miles an hour, 24 hours a day.

A cyclist with a passion for parks, Michael is living proof of the overall health benefits of staying fit. When we spoke, he was prepping for a 3-day training ride of 375 miles with a group of riders, most 20 years his junior. Thanks to a lifetime of running, playing hockey, and now cycling, he delights in keeping up with a younger crowd.

Michael is proud that money raised during the race will help The Trust for Public Land build parks for people. “The health benefits of parks—especially well-designed parks—are numerous,” says Michael. “Parks improve community health by promoting exercise, which fights diabetes, obesity, and heart disease, while easing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorder, and enhancing cognitive function and memory.”

Michael proves it’s not the years, but what you do in those years that counts. “We’re not just a bunch of geezers cruising across the country,” he says. “We really want to smash the record.”

A record-breaking ride

The tenacious cyclists rode 3,000 miles in 6 days, 13 hours, and 13 minutes, setting a new record for their age group—and besting younger riders, too! We’ve compiled a photo tribute to Michael and his teammates: