CROFTON, Ky. — Participating in a bike race was just one of those things, something he wanted to do once.
He’d excelled at running in high school and college and continued to run until several years ago, when he hurt his knee. Not much later, Crofton resident Jesse McGuire began searching for something to do so he could stay healthy, and he turned to biking – mountain biking, at first, but eventually, road biking.
Earlier this month McGuire rode 24 hours and 55 minutes along the 444 miles of the Natchez Trace, placing second in the race known officially as the Natchez Trace 444 and achieving his personal goal.
“It’s one of those things I had on my bucket list,” McGuire says, laughing. “I did it for fun.”
He found inspiration in his birthday.
His 50th was coming up, and McGuire, the plant manager for Hopkinsville’s TG Automotive Sealing Kentucky, began reflecting on his age and thinking about how he’d like to try a bike race.
He came across the Natchez Trace 444, which follows a path beginning southwest of Nashville all the way to Natchez, Mississippi, and the edge of the Mississippi River.
McGuire started his journey at 5:08 p.m. Oct. 6 and arrived in Natchez on the evening of Oct. 7.
“You ride through the night into the next day,” McGuire explains.
Placing second has qualified him to participate in the Race Across America, a 3,200-mile bicycle race from California to North Carolina, although McGuire says that, with the cost, training and time involved in the event, he likely won’t pursue it – at least, not at the moment.
Receiving his first bicycle as a youngster in the third-grade, McGuire remembers thinking how he’d like to ride his new bicycle across the country, and he says he still dreams of doing that someday.
Of the Race Across America, familiarly known as RAAM, he notes that it’s a great race.
“It looks like it’d be a really neat race to do,” McGuire says.
In the meantime, he notes that he may look for other races similar to the Natchez Trace 444.
“There’s a whole series of those type of races,” he explains. And McGuire continues to ride with the group of bikers who depart on Saturdays from Bikes and Moore in Hopkinsville, logging 117 miles this past Saturday morning before a flat tire brought an end to his ride.
McGuire’s wife, Diane McGuire, notes that the Natchez Trace 444 was her husband’s “first ride of this caliber,” and she recalls how the officials were quite impressed because “that was the first race he’s ever done of that magnitude,” Diane McGuire said.
As a runner, Jesse McGuire received Mid-American Conference titles for the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs for cross country while in college in 1987 and 1989.
He won four Mid-American Conference championships in track, winning the 5,000 and 10,000 meter runs in 1987 and 1990, according to wmich.edu. In 2002, McGuire was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame at Western Michigan University, his alma mater where he received a degree in engineering.
In 2005, he won the Tennessee State Parks Running Tour, and McGuire was inducted into his high school’s Hall of Fame in Bronson, Michigan, in 2012.
“In high school, I had more than my fair share of state championships and records,” says McGuire, who adds that it was his athletic abilities that helped support him financially through college.
He pursued both cross country and track, initially because he enjoyed the win and, later, because it was a means to pay for college. Eventually, his health became a motivator, as it was for biking.
When he injured his knee six years ago, he sought out the latter.
McGuire says the challenge is probably part of what has attracted him to biking. It’s also a healthy pastime and one that gives him time to reflect, to pray or meditate.
“Your mind has time to relax and unwind,” McGuire observes. “You can think about things.”
He notes that it’s nice to know he can bike 400 miles if he wants to do so, and he adds that he appreciates having something like biking to pursue in the local community. There are some bike lanes as well as the Hopkinsville Rail Trail which are convenient for bike riders.
“People are nice to me when I’m on the road,” McGuire notes.
Information from: Kentucky New Era, http://www.kentuckynewera.com