"If you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude." – Maya Angelou

7 Lessons a 106-Year-Old Cyclist can Teach Writers

Including, you're never too old!

On February 11, 2018, 106-year-old Robert Marchand, cycled his official four-kilometer “farewell ride” in the Saint Quentin velodrome in Paris.

Remarkable, isn’t it? What made it even more memorable was that he declined to sit down after the ride and preferred to stand for almost half an hour while being interviewed by journalists.

The holder of numerous records and the present world-record holder for the over 100-year age group in cycling, Robert Marchand has a few things he can teach writers and authors alike.

7 Lessons writers can learn from a 106-year-old cyclist:
    1. You are never too old to start writing and publishing (or cycling!).
      • Robert Marchand stopped cycling at age 19, then resumed at age 67 in 1987. In 1993, at age 82, he cycled the 2,800 km between Paris and Moscow. At age 102, in 2014, he set a world record by cycling 26.92 km in one hour!
      • Laura Ingalls Halls, author of Little House on the Prairie, was 65 years old when her first book was published.
      • What gives you permission to quit?
    2. You are never old enough to retire. You will never be too old to write.
      • Marchand’s response to the question of retiring (at age 106) was: “No, I’m not retired, I’ve just slowed down.” Last year, in 2017, aged 105, he started “slowing down” and only cycled 22,5 km in one hour!
      • Keep writing, reading, and researching—it will help with brain health and stave off the risks of Dementia and general poor health.
    3. Write every day. Cycle every day.
      • Most of us know this “golden rule” but fewer practice it.
      • Knowledge without action is of little value.
      • Robert Marchand exercises for 30 minutes every day.
      • If you write only 30 minutes EVERY DAY you will still amass an impressive collection of work.
    4. It is okay to change what you write, be it nonfiction, fiction, or poetry.
      • Robert Marchand doesn’t cycle outdoors anymore due to the potholes and poor condition of the roads and because of his rheumatism. But he still cycles, on an indoor track!
      • You have the permission (and blessing) of the Writers Guild of America to write shorter formats of prose and poetry once you turn a hundred years of age.
    5. Never lose your sense of humor.
      • Throughout his 30-minute interview, the 106-year old, Marchand, standing, following his 4 km ride, would answer each question put to him by journalists. Hard of hearing, reporters had to lean closer and holler the questions in his ear. Marchand would then laugh and answer each one.
      • A sense of humor, the ability to laugh at oneself, and making light of hard circumstances helps to keep the soul and mind and heart healthy. Humor has a place in any kind of writing, irrespective of genre.
    6. The road to fulfillment (and success) and recognition is often arduous and difficult
      • At the end of WW II, work was scarce in Europe. Thirty-four-year-old Marchand tried to get into Australia, but due to the closed ports, he had to make a new plan and found occupation in Venezuela and lived there for eight years.
      • Finding recognition in the writing and publishing world demands consistent hard work and ingenuity. Making a living as a full-time writer and author is never handed on a platter. The industry is in perpetual flux and gatekeepers are found all along the way. Only those who are determined not to give up, reap the eventual benefits.
    7. Weigh and measure every piece of advice you receive. Don’t jump on every bandwagon.
      • Marchand’s doctor had been advising him “to calm down a bit” since what he was doing (riding competitively), was putting far too much strain on his 106-year-old body. He listened to his doctor, however, took it with a pinch of salt.
      • Read far and wide. (Especially the old masters.) Keep your writer friendships healthy. Attend writer’s conferences. Write often. Publish your work. Learn what works without paying unnecessarily through your neck. Don’t allow the many snake oil salesmen doing the rounds as online instructors and experts to mislead you. Develop a spirit of discernment.

And, if you aspire to be as up and about as Mr. Marchand, and be as witty and sharp at 106, follow his example.

It’s not only “good genes” that Mr. Marchand is blessed with. He worked hard to do that—every day.

You can be as remarkable with your writing by following these seven lessons: (1) Start writing. It is never too late. (2) Never stop writing. (3) Write daily if you can. (4) Change the format of your writing as you grow and mature. (5) Always be on the lookout for the humor in the direst of circumstances. Use it in your writing. (6) The path will be hard. Don’t give up. (7) Only follow sound advice—you’re not a chameleon.

Go and write. Go and cycle. And no, you’re not too old to do either! Be remarkable!

This article was also published on

    1. Robert Marchand by Dave Everett for Cycling Tips (March 11, 2018)
    2. Robert Marchand – 106 Years Old and Going Strong
    3. Age well—never get rid of your bicycle by Danie Botha. 2017.

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