Me by Mark Beaumont
Mark Beaumont (MA 2006) is an endurance athlete who has broken the record for cycling around the world not once, but twice. He set his first circumnavigation record of 194 days not long after graduating, then reduced it drastically to 78 days in 2017, when he averaged 240 miles of cycling each day. Mark also holds the record for cycling the length of Africa, from Cairo to Cape Town. The many other strings to Mark’s bow include TV presenter, documentary maker, business consultant and author.
"My first round-the-world journey was a real adventure, in the true sense of the word. But as an athlete, the second makes the first look like kindergarten.
What have been your toughest times on expedition?
I’ve been in some horrible situations on expedition such as capsizing 500 miles offshore in the middle of the Atlantic and spending six hours paddling around in my boxer shorts trying to get rescued. But the often unspoken hardest part is the struggle to get expeditions to the start, raising finance and getting people involved. That causes me more sleepless nights than the incidents and accidents.
And the best?
Riding through every sunrise and sunset for two and a half months, suffering from getting up at half past three, but ultimately being rewarded with these incredible moments, like being full flight on the bike with a giraffe cantering alongside, or rowing through the high Arctic 700 miles north of any inhabitants and there’s a polar bear swimming next to me, or a pod of beluga whales cresting around me.
After declaring your adventuring days were over in 2012 you went on to smash a further two world records. What changed your mind?
I had an amazing job for BBC World, presenting the build-up to the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Every day I was interviewing athletes, some of the biggest names in sport, and I was inspired. But I was also jealous. As soon as the Games came to a close, I sat down with my wife Nicci and said I’m not done yet. There’s unfinished business here.
Why cycle around the world in under 80 days, a feat you’ve described as your “Everest”?
It was the sum total of everything I’ve done since I was an 11-year-old boy. I’ve always been interested in pushing myself and in the interaction with the world around me – the culture, people, places, landscapes. And “Around the world in 80 days” means something. I understood the magic of that number.
"When you’re travelling, you get to meet people at such an honest level, capture their stories and share them with the world.
What’s it like to experience the world from a bike?
The bike is unique in that your senses are tuned in to the world around you. You're getting the benefits of fitness and fresh air, there's the sociability side of being with your mates or meeting people along the roadside, and you're joining up the world under your own steam and crossing countries and continents quite quickly. There’s nothing else that can do all that.
Do you prefer cycling alone or with a team?
My happy place is somewhere in the middle, like the Africa record [Mark shattered the previous record by 17 days, taking 42 days to cycle from Cairo to Cape Town in 2015] where I had team support, but they weren’t with me all the time. I still had the freedom of having quite a lot of the time on my own and carrying my own kit. With that comes the interaction with the world around you, the kindness of strangers and the not knowing quite where you’re going to end up each night.
What food do you crave when you're on the road?
It’s always home cooking, isn’t it? Very simple stuff. A fish pie, an apple crumble, good Scottish fodder. I’m not the world’s best cook, but even to have some of my own homemade bread when I’m on an expedition would be nice – warm, just out of the oven.
What do you enjoy most about presenting?
What I love most about television and making documentaries is the access it gives me. Whether it’s brewing coffee in the high Andes, or mud-wrestling in New Delhi – whatever it is, I’m doing it too. Life experiences and realising I’ve got an opportunity to share it with a lot of people. That’s the exciting bit.
How would you spend a perfect day?
I’ve got a list of my favourite places I would share with my daughters. Northern Botswana, going through those great savannahs with elephants and wildlife around me. Rowing alongside a huge herd of elephant seals in the Arctic or wild camping out in some of the deserts, like the Atacama, with no people or light pollution for 300 miles in any direction, in my sleeping bag looking up at the best night sky you’ll ever see.
Memories of Glasgow
I absolutely loved first year at Glasgow, being in halls of residence. The walk across the Botanic Gardens every day into Byres Road, the freedom of those first couple of years. Then I had a wonderful flat, seven of us, off Argyle Street. My fondest memories include ski club trips to the Alps, the friendships and the charity events that we did.
I wasn’t the most studious at uni, but I wasn’t lazy. I guess I was somewhere in the middle. But I did give a lot of my time to different sports clubs, then GUSA. There was a big social aspect to university as well, which was fantastic. I think if the sum total of your university experience is a degree, then you’ve missed what those four years are for.
Mark’s "Around the World in 80 Days" talk tour has been extended into 2020 with new dates in the UK and Ireland. The full list of dates can be found at markbeaumontonline.com.
Follow Mark on Twitter @MrMarkBeaumont
This article was first published January 2020.