Quitting not an option for Arvid Loewen

Ultra-marathon cyclist and philanthropist teams up with son to tell his story

January 29, 2014 | Young Voices
Aaron Epp | Young Voices Co-editor

Winnipeg writer Paul Loewen has self-published four novels that combine fictional stories with theological points in an attempt to create modern-day parables. But his latest book may be his most personal story yet because he has witnessed it first-hand. It’s the story of Arvid Loewen, his father.

Paul wrote When Quitting is not an Option: My Road to Cycling, a Guinness World Record and Making a Difference with Arvid. The book, to be released this month by Castle Quay Books of Pickering, Ont., tells stories from Arvid’s life and experiences using ultra-marathon cycling to raise money for Mully Children’s Family (MCF), a street mission in Nairobi, Kenya, that helps thousands of needy children.

While the book touches on Arvid’s upbringing in Paraguay, his family’s move to Winnipeg, his passion for soccer and his eventual discovery of cycling, it focuses predominantly on stories from the past eight years. In 2006, Arvid took a step of faith and resigned from a successful career in senior management with Palliser Furniture to volunteer full-time to create awareness and raise funds for MCF. In the process, the 57-year-old has raised more than $2.5 million for the organization.

Paul says one of his wishes for the book is that it gives readers a new understanding of his father and what he goes through during a race. “My hope is people will read it and go, wow, I had no idea it was that hard and that difficult, and that he thought about quitting so many times,” says Paul, 27.

Each year since 2005, Arvid has undertaken a major cycling endeavour as his platform to promote MCF. In 2008, he won his age category in the Race Across America. Rated as the world’s most rigorous and challenging bicycle race, it spans the United States from coast to coast. Competitors have just 12 days to complete the 4,765-kilometre journey.

Arvid also holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest bicycle crossing of Canada (6,040 km), a feat he accomplished in 13 days 6 hours 13 minutes in 2011.

Paul, who works as the full-time youth pastor at Douglas Mennonite Church in Winnipeg, wrote the book based on a dozen interviews he conducted with his father over the course of a year. He says that being Arvid’s son, as well as a support crew member on many of his races, put him in a unique position to help write When Quitting is not an Option.

“I know him really well,” Paul says. “Our humour is similar, I’m an endurance athlete as well on a smaller scale, I’ve seen his pain, I’ve heard him speak a hundred times, I’ve seen him at his worst . . . so I think I have a pretty good handle on what he goes through. It was fun to write stories from his perspective.”

Including stories of some of Arvid’s failures was important to both Paul and his father. “People think he’s Superman and that he can do anything,” Paul says. “He isn’t, and he can’t. He’s failed lots of times.”

Arvid adds that he is as ordinary as can be. “I’m responsible to do my best and leave the rest of it to God,” he says. “It may not always be a successful finish, it may not always be a Guinness World Record, but God can work through it.”

He says that working on the book with his son was a fantastic experience. “How many dads have the opportunity to sit with their kid and tell them stories?” he asks. “It was really neat to go through the process of putting these stories onto paper. Paul’s lived them with me and he has a very good understanding of what I go through. It was tremendous. It’s been a really fun year of doing [the book].”

In June, Arvid will attempt to set the Guinness World Record for the fastest time to cycle 10,000 km,  a record currently set at 22 days 15 hours 34 minutes.

Before then, Paul and Arvid will celebrate the release of When Quitting is not an Option with a book launch in Winnipeg at North Kildonan Mennonite Brethren Church on Feb. 19, 2014, at 6:30 p.m.

Paul says the book is ultimately about more than just cycling. It’s about trusting God and making a difference. His father’s decision to leave a lucrative career at the age of 49, scale back his lifestyle and volunteer to raise funds for an orphanage in Kenya has inspired Paul, his sisters and their spouses. “It’s been an inspiration for my faith to go full-force into things,” Paul says. “He was in a time of life where people question their purpose. He found a significant purpose and we’re very happy about that.”

A different version of this article appears in the February 2014 issue of ChristianWeek.

--Posted Jan. 29, 2014

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