Scott, Shackleton, Tenzing, Blyth, Fiennes. The list goes on. These were the heroes of my childhood. Extreme achievement in extreme conditions has always fascinated me. I was destined to be a 70cm adventurer though, living through the stories of these great adventurers 70cm away from where the story was recounted on the page. Tales of endurance and suffering be it in the poles, on the oceans or in the rarified air of Everest. It just never occurred to me that I could follow this passion myself. Surely these types of challenges were reserved for highly trained soldiers, and often special forces ones at that, not someone who spent their days with their weapon of choice; a spreadsheet. So I followed the well trodden path into business and entrepreneurship, but I kept reading, kept learning, kept wondering; “how would I cope in the cold?”, “how would I cope at altitude?”, “I wonder what it is like being on your own in the middle of an ocean for months on end?”. So whilst my body is still relatively able to do what I ask of it, I realised that it is now or never and with never being too long with no way back I decided I had to try and answer all of those questions that I was asking myself and more.
One thing I always wanted to do was to be the first at something, but I think I just assumed that all the firsts had been done. Then I read about the North Pole marathon which just a couple of hundred people in total had done. That was a pretty exclusive club and at the time I thought that was the closest that I was going to get. But then I wondered, if that is the most northerly marathon in the world, what is the most southerly? And what is the highest? And what is the lowest? In fact, would it be possible to run marathons at the four corners of the world? A few google searches later and I had my answer and the Four Poles Marathon challenge was born, which as far as I can tell, nobody has ever done before. Four marathons, four extreme corners of the world, one middle aged man; the North Pole, Everest, Antarctica, the Dead Sea and me.
Whilst I will finally learn how I perform in the cold and at altitude, the question still remains about how I will cope in the middle of an ocean for months on end. With being isolated at home for seemingly months on end in various forms of pandemic imposed isolation I wanted to know how I could use that experience as training for something meaningful. So I entered the 2023 Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge. 3,000 miles of solo rowing from the Canaries to Antigua, just me, a boat and the ocean. There’s a lot to learn. I will probably start with how to row!
There’s a freedom that comes from knowing that you can work towards your dreams and what joins it are ever bigger and scarier dreams. For now they will reside in my notebook, but I am confident that they will become my reality.
No matter what job I have had, whether I have been running my own business or working for someone else, by far the biggest and most important job I have ever had in my life is being a dad. My kids used to tell me that I was a cool dad, but that is long gone sadly. They tell me that my jokes that they used to love are no longer funny and the mystique that they used to have for everything I said seems to have left them a long time ago. I am immensely proud of them both and want to use these experiences to help them recognise that they don’t have to slavishly follow conventional paths through life if there is something else that is lighting a fire inside them.
I have had a bumpy ride through my career and am all the better for it. A plain sailing approach would never have been my style anyway. I have started businesses, shuttered businesses that have failed and worked at all levels in established business of varying sizes, from the shop floor to the boardroom. I am hoping that my experiences of the business world combined with the stories I will gain adventuring will enable me to relate to a wide range of people as individuals, teams and whole organisations to help them achieve more than they ever dared to dream of.
BEING A SOLO ADVENTURER
One thing that has become apparent to me is that whilst all of the adventures and challenges are ones that would be classed as solo, there is in fact no way that I could do all of these alone. There is a broad support team that I am privileged to rely on, but there is one person without whose help none of this would be happening in the first place. From being shoulder to shoulder with me through the ups and downs of my professional life, to working alongside me to build a family home to being the one that says “go for it” to pretty much any idea that I have ever had, I wouldn’t even be able to consider doing this if it wasn’t for my own personal 'Ninja'. These adventures are inherently selfish in their nature and the ying to that yang is my partner, a special selfless lady who is prepared to forego house renovations, holidays and even putting their own career on hold to make these dreams of mine a reality financially, logistically, designing logos, building websites, counting calories, tolerating the seemingly endless deliveries of required kit, the list is almost endless.