Mrs Paterson, who admits the idea of a woman of her years cycling such a distance sounds rather “daft”, set herself a fundraising target of £20,000. But before she had even set off the retired nurse had already raised more than £12,000, with an additional promise of £10,000 from the Ineos, the chemical giant.
“It will be nice to get the world record, but for me I’m doing it to raise money for Macmillan and because cycling and taking on big challenges helps me cope with the grief,” she said. “It’s impossibly hard going from being part of a family of five to being alone, but taking on challenges like this keeps me going.”
To add to the challenge she faces Mrs Paterson, from Wigtownshire in Dumfries and Galloway, suffers from arthritis has difficulty walking, as well as struggling when getting off and on her bike. But for some reason cycling is not a problem.
“It doesn’t affect the pedalling,” she said. “And I’ve got quite good will power. I’ve always been pretty determined. If I want to do something I’ll do it. It’s what I say to people. If you want to do something then do it and that’s what I apply to myself.
“Also I’ve had great support along the way from friends and relations as well as my sponsors.”
By yesterday morning, when she was just a few miles into the three week adventure, supporters up and down the country were describing Mrs Paterson as “awesome” and “inspiring”. Supporters include Mark Beaumont, who set the world record for cycling round the world.
Derek Watson, Macmillan’s fundraising manager, described her as “incredible”, adding: “The challenge she has set herself is astounding and we cannot wait to cheer her on to get that world record. Her determination, incredible level of fitness and her generosity, is astounding.”
This is not the first time Mrs Paterson, – who has always been sporty, playing tennis and running since leaving school – has set herself an ambitious cycling challenge.
Last year she took part in a 24 hour ride around the North Rhins peninsula, on the outskirts of Stranraer, and 10 years ago she cycled across Canada to raise money for MacMillan.
Mrs Paterson, who is riding with her friend Heather Curley and is backed by a support team of friends, aims to reach John O’Groats around June 19, cycling between 50 and 60 miles a day.
A specially-designed campervan provided by Scottish firm Tunnock’s will follow them as back-up, stocked with their famous caramel wafers and tea cakes.
In preparation for the trip Mrs Paterson, who lost her husband John in 1996, travelled to Australia, where she has family, to train in the hills around Brisbane – getting up at 5am before it became too hot.
“I’m pretty old and I’ve gone through a lot of tragedy,” she told The Telegraph as she took a lunch break on the way to her first overnight stop in Truro. “It will be a great boost to know I’m helping raise so much money on the day when I’m struggling. If the hills are too steep I’ll get off and push. There’s nothing wrong with that.”
Donations can be made at justgiving.com/fundraising/ mavis-paterson1