Catherine and Rachael were determined to complete the challenge before the borders closed (Picture: Catherine Dixon / SWNS)

Two women in their 50s have smashed the world record for tandem cycling around the globe by 19 days – after pedalling over 18,000 miles in 263 days in order to beat the closing borders.

Catherine Dixon, 53, and Rachael Marsden, 55, raced against the clock after the global outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic meant countries started closing their borders. So if they weren’t quick, they never would have completed the challenge – and they might not have made it home.

But the extra pressure seemed to be exactly what they needed, and the pair of best friends managed to break the Guiness World Record by a huge margin, even smashing the men’s record.

Catherine and Rachael cycled through 25 countries across five continents on a pink tandem bike named Alice – and raised more than £37,000 for charity in the process.

They had originally planned to finish a few days later, but due to Europe closing their borders because of Covid-19, the pair were forced to race against the virus.

They managed to squeeze on to the penultimate ferry leaving Caen, France, to Portsmouth, where they eventually were able to cycle back to Oxford, completing a journey of a staggering 18,263 miles.

The pair cycled 18,263 miles in total (Picture: Catherine Dixon / SWNS)

‘It’s been a long journey to say the least but all the things that made it unexpected made it the experience that it was,’ says Cat, from London.

‘We planned to do it 290 days but just as we set off that record was beaten so we knew we had to go even faster.

‘We wanted the ultimate record, we just wanted to be the fastest people to ever cycle in a tandem around the world.

‘It was amazing, while exhausting, and I feel so privileged to have been able to do it with such a great friend as well.’

The planning for the trip took nine months, and the pair underwent a gruelling training regime to get themselves physically and mentally ready for the challenge.

The schedule for the trip was relentless – at one point they cycled between San Francisco and Miami in just 47 days, and they were on the road up to nine hours a day.

They cycled through France, Italy, Georgia, as well as Thailand, Myanmar, Malaysia, Morocco and Australia.

The women say getting home to find the UK in lockdown has been a shock (Picture: Catherine Dixon / SWNS)

In Australia, they pedalled between Perth and Adelaide on the world’s longest straight road – where houses were separated by 160 miles.

‘I left my job to do this because this was truly important to me,’ say Cat, who used to be a CEO at a company. ‘Life’s too short – I’m still fit enough to do things like this, why not?’

In order to beat the record, they cycled 70 miles a day on average for almost a year on a tandem which, including the two women and their equipment, weighed over 200kgs.

Over the course of their ride, they raised over £37,000 for Motor Neurone Disease Association and Oxfam and had a budding community following them on facebook.

Rachael, a nurse consultant, said: ‘Cat is bloody awesome, she’s my best friend and I had the time of my life.

They smashed the men’s record by 19 days (Picture: Catherine Dixon / SWNS)

‘You’re never really fit enough to do something like that but Cat makes you believe you can achieve anything.

‘I’m 55, and yet I’ve never felt as good as I do now. I just want to keep on going.

‘I feel incredibly proud and especially want to show other older women that they can do it.’

The pair came back to the UK welcomed by a nationwide lockdown after spending nearly a year seeing the world without limits.

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‘It’s odd because we’ve gone around the world and come back to the same place but it’s like a whole different world,’ added Rachael.

The record is subject to official verification from Guinness, which will take a few weeks.

For now, Rachael and Catherine will have to get used to a slightly slower pace of life.

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