I went to see a really interesting film tonight, a preview of The Flying Scotsman, a film about the life (or at least some of the achievements) of the remarkable Graeme Obree.
Obree, if you’ve never heard of him, broke the holy-grail record of cycling, beating a 9-year old total distance cycled in an hour. That record was always though of as the supreme struggle – get on your bike, cycle as hard as you can for 60 minutes, and see how far you got.
I had a passing acquaintance with Obree when he was in his teens (and I was younger): we were both in the same cycling club, very occasionally used to go on rides (which would generally involve me being dropped early on by Graeme and his pal Gordon Stead, in whose workshop he built the “Old Faithful” bike with which he stirred a hornet’s nest of controversy in the cycling establishment, whilst breaking a couple of world records and taking a couple of world championships).
Obree was always fast – even as a 17-year-old he was doing 20-minute 10-mile time trials on fairly ordinary bikes, along a dual carriageway. I recall hearing out of the blue in 1993 that some weird Scotsman who’d build his own bike out of washing machine parts – not strictly true, but looks good in the papers – had just taken the hour record… and couldn’t quite believe that it was the same Mr G Obree of Ayrshire.
Anyway, it’s a good film. A good story, and a darker and more interesting one than the usual “nice guy underdog triumphs against the villanous ogres of the establishment” type affair. Obree was, maybe still is to a degree, haunted by a bi-polar condition which he has sought therapy from in writing his own biography on which the film is based. Jonny Lee Miller turns in a top-drawer performance, and even manages to look a lot like Graeme did at the time.
I haven’t read all of the Flying Scotsman autobiography yet – I’m waiting for it to wing its way from Amazon – but I have delved into it using their excellent “Search Inside” feature which allows you to preview pages of a book before committing to buying it.
I suppose the Obree story is one that everyone can learn from – by having supreme self belief (he refused to talk about “attempting” to break the world record… the way he saw it, he was going to break the record) and raw talent, it’s possible to prevail. Now, I can talk myself into self belief, but I’m still searching for the raw talent… 🙂
PS. The film goes on general release on 29th June 2007, and the book has been available for a couple of years.