In February 2008, Mark Beaumont finished an epic journey cycling around the world in 194 days and 17 hours, smashing the previous world record by more than 80 days. However, he is not driven by world records, fame or even cycling. This is a world record holder with a difference.
After reading an article in the Dundee Courier about a man who had cycled from John O’Groats to Land’s End, Beaumont, then aged 11, was inspired to attempt some very ambitious challenges. The following year he undertook a 145 mile cycle across Scotland and two years later completed the 1038 mile John O’Groats to Land’s End cycle, raising £3000 for numerous charities. This was just the beginning.
After graduating in Economics and Politics from Glasgow University he enthusiastically set out thereafter on various challenges and a new career as an ‘adventurer’. Possibly a life changing moment and the catalyst for more extraordinary challenges came during an internship in Boston.
“Originally I wanted to be a fund manager, but only because I fancied the money. I had no idea what they actually did. During my internship in Boston I saw guys in positions I had aspired to who were ten years older than me and it wasn’t how I imagined it would be. This gave me a fresh look at things and made me ask myself, ‘Where are your passions? Where are your ambitions?’ and I decided to go for it. As a career I want to bring endurance events to screen in a very personal and intimate way, not survival programmes – but the real deal –I want to be the all-round athlete.”
There is clearly an audience for ultra endurance expeditions as his journey was watched by over 3 million viewers on the BBC documentary series ‘The Man Who Cycled the World’, which was nominated for a Scottish Bafta award.
His journey round the world was not without setbacks. He was knocked off his bike on three occasions and mugged on another. Despite this, Mark completed his circumnavigation of the world, finishing at the Arc de Triomphe having cycled through 20 countries and having covered over 18,000 miles.
It wasn’t all plain sailing in getting his career as an adventurer off the ground, but as he explains, his determination shone through to get the ball rolling:
“Unfortunately there is no magic wand. It takes hard work to get your first project off the ground and get people to buy into your dream. I spent three or four months doing full-time admin jobs. I would work into the night on the logistical planning for the world cycle and the training. To work and back, I was running a total of a half marathon every day. It was pretty demoralizing at times but luckily I got my break.”
Mark required every ounce of determination he could muster to raise the tens of thousands of pounds he needed to kick off his world cycle.
“I was flat broke and working very hard to get sponsorship. It took eight months of getting turned away before I got my first capital sponsorship which was £500. It’s a balance between making the most of opportunities and making sure you are living your own ambitions and dreams.”
After such hard work he was under no illusions as to how he would make his impact in the world as an adventurer.
“If you are going to build a career in this sort of thing you have to make a bit of a splash first time and I thought to myself that there is nothing bigger than the world.”
Despite cycling being a large part of his life to date, Mark has no intentions to limit himself to the one sport.
“I’ve never had any ambitions to cycle as a career in any of the Tours. My main reason for cycling round the world was for the journey which it involved.”
Smashing a world record is the average competitive sportsperson’s dream and is what drives them to push themselves to the limit. Fame and fortune can be a huge driving force, too. With Mark, it couldn’t be further from the truth.
“It wasn’t about beating the next man. The fact there are now three people planning to try to break my record is great. It is what the record is there for and it is not going to make me want to do it again. I am not doing this to be famous; I am living a personal ambition and by doing so it can also be beneficial to other people. It is my hope and ambition not to be pigeon-holed in any one sport. I’d like to try my hand at different challenges.”
Throughout the years Mark has placed a high importance on raising money for various charities while at the same time living out his dream as an ‘adventurer’. A wide range of charities have benefited from his efforts including ‘Save the Children’, ‘Tusk Trust’ and ‘Community Action Nepal’ (C.A.N).
Whilst glory is bestowed on Mark for his amazing achievements, he is quick to acknowledge the invaluable support of the ‘team’ behind him including a physio, masseuse, nutritionist, sports doctor and others. Most important of these is his Mother, Una, who he describes as his ‘first point of contact’ and ‘base camp’ during the world cycle, who has been an ever present influence since the days when he first dreamt of a career as an adventurer.
This ‘adventurer’ is truly unique and his achievements will take some beating. Lance Armstrong entitled his autobiography, ‘It’s Not About the Bike’. This phrase could not be more applicable to Mark Beaumont’s philosophy. His refreshing enthusiasm and drive will serve as an inspiration to many who try to emulate his success.
Words by Myles Edwards