His expeditions, including cycling around the world, across Africa and ocean rowing through the high Arctic, demand a level of prolonged endurance that most of us will never experience or understand. But record-breaking adventurer and broadcaster Mark Beaumont says there are very “transferable” lessons on living in the moment that can be taken from his experiences, as he looks to pursue his “massive ambitions” over the next couple of years.
These have taken him through 125 countries, from the highest mountains in Alaska to a 3,500 stretch across Australia and battling through the crowds of north India.
He stresses that the good days and high-profile achievements aren’t what have spurred him on; instead the best moments on expeditions have been what seemed like the worst ones at the time, “when you’re really tested, when you really feel like you’re broken”.
On reflection, he believes “they’re actually the bits you look at afterwards and go, ‘that was career-defining, that was the stuff that actually that made the difference between me and anyone else trying to do what I’m doing’.”
And nobody is coming anywhere close to his achievements, with his cycle around the world, for example, breaking the previous Guinness World Record by more than 80 days.
It covered 18,296 miles through 20 countries in 194 days and 17 hours, so how can anyone cope with such long durations?
“The pain and the hard work are not something you can imaging finishing any time soon. It’s this mindset of neverendingness,” he says.
“The end is too far away to focus on, so you’ve got to find some sort of enjoyment and real motivation to work bloody hard every single moment, every single day.
That sort of intensity is “massively transferable,” he believes. “We as humans can endure suffering if we can imagine a time when we’re not doing it.
And the 24/7 endurance aspect was far from his only challenge, he adds.
“I wouldn’t wish some of the things that I’ve been through on anyone. I nearly died capsizing in the middle of the Atlantic… I’ve been in very real danger, more tight corners than most.”
Hurdles he’s faced have included muggings and being run over, but “my sum experience of humanity is actually very positive”.
And such setbacks have proved extremely useful in terms of perspective and motivation, he says, as well as proving to be of the most interest to an audience when he talks about his career.
“When you talk about how you dealt with and communicated and acted through major setbacks like capsizing in the middle of the Atlantic in a team of six, how do you actually save the lives of [those] around you as you tread water 500 miles offshore? That’s a very real communication about your depth of self-reliance, your resolve and that communication with the team that gets you all out of difficulty.”
As for his future plans, he says: “My big focus in the next couple of years is to really figure out my personal best as an athlete, really push what’s possible as an endurance athlete.”
He is looking to pursue “career-defining ambitions” and adds that as an athlete “the next two to three years have to count big-time… now is all about figuring out those personal bests”.
Looking at communicating his journeys, Beaumont says he was fortunate that he “started to go on significant journeys with a story to share” at the same time social media was taking off.
“It’s quite exciting to have grown up professionally with all these new opportunities to market myself and to communicate,” he says.
“Ultimately I think the public are incredibly loyal, especially in Scotland. I do believe that as long as I keep telling honest, straightforward, inspiring stories, the public will back me up.”
Mark is touring his Africa Solo experiences across the UK from 13 March to 2 April 2016. He is planning to cycle between many of the venues, “so follow the journey around the 17 theatres on social media, and if you wish to, come out and ride some miles with me!” For more details see markbeaumontonline.com, facebook.com/MarkBeaumontAdventures and @MrMarkBeaumont.