Adventure, Interviews

Interview with Adventurer Sophie Radcliffe, aka Challenge Sophie

I have wanted to interview this person for quite a while, as she epitomises what I want to be like, in the way she lives her life. Cyclist, mountaineer, Ironman, she is the fearless Sophie Radcliffe, living her life in the mountains, challenging herself and others perceptions every day.

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1.What is it about endurance sports that has you hooked?

I love the challenge of it all, really putting yourself to the test and seeing what you can deliver. Finding the drive and persistence to keep going when everything has been screaming at you to stop for hours. Maintaining that drive in bad weather, when you’re tired, lost, hungry or just would rather be anywhere else. Feeling at one with the world and with nature, leaving everything behind and focusing purely on the now to get yourself through the challenge. I love that you can always do more than you think, that your body and mind are an indomitable force if you want them to be, and if you fuel, train and reward them properly. I love the adventure of it all, the people you meet and experiences you share. The way it shapes me and drives me forward to want to achieve more.

2. At what point do you think your adventures became a way of life rather than a hobby?

Recently, in the past 6 months. You have to make decisions that you are going to focus on certain things and make time and space for that. If you keep doing what comes easy, what pays the bills, what you are good at and what people recognise you for, you will always succumb to doing that first and never have time for doing what you want to become. It’s a process of transition, I focus on the long game. I couldn’t move from one day doing a full time job in my career in London to the next day living in Chamonix and making money from adventure. It’s taken years to retrain, build my brand, open doors and create opportunities…

3.What’s your main motivation for what you do, what are you seeking? Fitness, adrenaline, freedom..?

Fitness, and freedom for sure. I seek freedom to live in a way that makes me feel happy, fulfilled, challenged and free. Away from the restrictions I placed on myself and I believed to be true from society. I’m seeking the feeling of pride and satisfaction in blazing my own trail in life, in leaving footprints in this world by helping people and giving back. I love everything else that comes with it; adventure, friendship, travel, challenge, love and smiles…

4. “When I left university, I loved the graduate lifestyle. I was in the pub after work having fun with colleagues and there was always an excuse not to go the gym or for a swim. Too tired, not enough time, weather is too good, weather is too bad…”

This is me to a T. So many people fall into this trap, how did you get yourself out of it?

It all starts with motivation. You have to really want to do something, especially if it involves change. I’m always intrigued by what’s beyond what i know, especially what i know to be certain. Changing behavioural patterns because you think you should, or have to, will be unlikely to end in the desired outcome, because the motivation is not there. If you really want to change something because you believe the outcome is worth it, you won’t even have to think about the motivation, it will always be there driving you forward.

5. What’s your current day job?

I’m a writer, blogger, model, inspirational speaker and events organiser. I run, climb and cycle in the mountains every day and I train to get me fit for adventure. I sometimes consult on commercial projects for technology startups, but I do this work less now as the rest has taken over.
Follow her adventures here on her website.
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Adventure, My Journey

An Ode to Da

When I was born and you held me in your arms, you just thirty one years old then, did it cross your mind that one day we would be sitting on opposite sides of the world emailing each other logistics, moulding out plans for an adventure? I can picture you now sitting in your study on the battered PC in the backarse of Ireland, a V of a frown etched between your brow, typing painfully slow, one letter at a time. Me, thousands of miles away, lying on my bed scratching my insect bites typing a reply on my laptop, somewhere lost in Vietnam.

All those years, all those abstract ideas flickering to life in our minds but fading out before they really got a chance to catch fire. But here we are finally, me twenty three, you fifty four, and finally we have committed. It’s going to be so tough, you are going to drive me nuts trying to over plan everything, fretting about the gear and the bikes, and you will get frustrated with me, with my slow pace, when I moan that my body aches, and when I want to wild camp, or befriend the rabbis ridden dogs…  but holy shit what an adventure it will be!

How lucky am I?

Who has the time nowadays to even while away an afternoon talking with their Da, laughing with him, telling him about their lives, asking advice, sharing funny stories… just the two of them?

Who gets to do that?

Now, we have four whole weeks in front of us, just us two.

Did you ever think, I’ve got three daughters and no sons perhaps all is lost?

Did you ever think, when I was six sitting on the stairs in the middle of the night in hysterics because I couldn’t sleep in my own bed, that one day we would be considering doing this?

Or did you think when I was seventeen when you were carrying me home paralytic drunk from the Meadowlands after Ciara’s eighteenth that we would be undertaking something along these lines?

We’ve come a long way from playing catch on the bales of hay in the back field, from shooting hoops on the tarmac outside the house, from summer evenings spent whacking tennis balls back and forth in the golf links, from coaching my soccer and football teams, from walking Rascal in the long grass in the woods across the road, from running laps of the GAA pitch to train for triathlons, from bodyboarding alongside me while I tried to surf in the baltic winter swell off the shores of Achill Island. Sport has always been our thing. Sport has always brought us together.

And now, I get to quit my job. I get to throw all my clothes, make up and hoarded trinkets in the bin. And I get to board a bus to Hanoi to meet my Daddy after not seeing him for seven months and cycle the length of Vietnam with him.

And already I know it will fluctuate between moments of pure brilliance that we will never forget and moments of horror when we will question what the hell we signed up for, but regardless I must repeat… holy shit what an adventure it will be!

“Every day, life tempts and teases us to settle for mediocrity.” – Sophie Radcliffe, Adventurer.

But I will continue to resist and I will continue to defy.

Because I am your daughter, and that’s how you raised me to be.

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Adventure, My Journey

“Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”

A train of thought… a stream of consciousness…

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I packed my bag and moved to Vietnam.

Everyone said how brave I was, moving to Vietnam alone.

Hear what she’s doing now. Wild.

But this wasn’t bravery.

This was just another stepping stone in the big plan. The plan to test myself little by little to see my capabilities, to see if I was cut out to do a real expedition.

But here I am, not three weeks in and I couldn’t be more comfortable. Too comfortable. It was all too easy, people were too nice, too helpful. I thought the world was supposed to be scary. But already, here I am, stuck in another routine, just a different backdrop.

Yes, it’s a world away from home, cracked tarmac, pressing heat, scooters everywhere in place of cars, noodles and rice instead of potatoes and pasta, markets on the side of the roads instead of in shops.

Everyone stopping to stare at the blonde haired, white girl walking amongst them.

Definitely a certain rustic beauty to the poverty.

But it was way too easy to find my place amongst them, to settle.

That’s not what I wanted.

I wanted hardship.

I wanted sweat, tears, and failure.

I wanted laughter and triumph against all odds.

I wanted an Epic.

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But now I’ve glimpsed real hardship, in the lives that most live here and all I feel is selfish, so selfish for always wanting more, when what I have is already pretty great.

Yet, in poverty it seems they have found what I seek.

With poverty it seems there comes a certain freedom. People are happier, freer then those of us from the western world. They have nothing; a whole family squashed together in a tiny room with no panes in their windows, their bikes and animals lying in the same room as their bed and kitchen, no fan or air conditioning to cool them in the relentless heat. Yet all they have, they share, they give all they can to others, to me, the ‘rich’ foreigner.

It would appear that I have everything they would want/need, yet I am not as happy, not as free as them. I am restless, yearning to see a change in the world, to see a change in myself. I thought my life was difficult, but it’s all relative. My life is not difficult, not by comparisons.

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I think my desire for adventure is connected with money and trappings of it. If I have nothing and all my worries day to day are not of how bad my skin is, how fat my thighs are, or how people perceive me. Adventure is when all of that fades into the background, into insignificance and the worries are instead focused on survival. The days spent pushing your body, mind and soul to its limit, seeing what you are capable of, seeing the world as it really is, not the tourist flashy version, but the real world.

I am tired of being restless.

I’ve always known what I want to do, I’ve just always been afraid to go ahead and do it.

Perhaps I am finally ready to step it up a gear or two, to say fuck the stepping stones and throw caution to the wind.

I am already nervous of the decision I have yet to make, of the not yet fully formed  idea in my mind. But it is there. It’s always been there. Growing stronger each passing day.  I will commit to doing something or forever will I be exiled  to this incomplete state of yearning, of always aching for more, of always failing to live in the moment.

When will my soul finally settle?

I’ve known the answer for quite a while. I just never had that extra push that it takes to commit and initiate the process.

Maybe moving here was too easy, but perhaps it was exactly what I needed to do to get the wheels in motion, to make me take that first and hardest of steps.

I know now I have to do an expedition/ a big adventure or forever I will live with a regret weighing on my shoulders.

Now…”Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” – Mary Oliver, The Summer Day.

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Adventure, My Journey

#microadventure on the Saltee Islands

An opportunity seized. A bag quickly packed. A boat taken. Me and my big sister, all grown up and off on a little adventure together.

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Just eighteen months separate us, yet we have grown up to be two completely different people. Her, twenty four, beautiful and stubborn. Me, twenty two, ragged and determined.

We plied off a motorised pack raft onto the edge of the beach, totally alone for one night on the empty Saltee Islands to spend a night amongst the seabirds.

We walk, we explore, so long it’s been since we were alone in each other’s company, we eat the filled rolls prepurchased from a garage deli on the shores of Kilmore. We wander over the cliffs, caged in by a colony of gannets, jeering the silly ways of the puffins and seals. We gather whale bones strewn across the beaches floor, vertebrates to be used as future paperweights, light a fire in the empty grate of our little shed and roll out our sleeping mats for the night ahead, basking in the sheer simplicity and beauty of it all.

Look how far we have come, since those days a lifetime ago playing push off the bed with our Da, screaming at each other as teenagers and now full circle, coming to rest at a lilting easiness between us.

Both of us currently stand on the threshold of real life, when this summer comes to a close, our time will come to leave home for good and continue the dreaded search to figure out who we are, on our own. She’s looking at Canada, me at Australia. Worlds apart.

But for one more night, we sit on the cliff, side by side in an easy silence, watching the world from our patch of isolated paradise.

 

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Adventure, Interviews

Interview with Angelo Wilkie-Page of Expedition 720°

An expedition of daunting magnitude, a time frame of eight years, this is a story that will inspire a generation of people who are already beginning to make their way into the wild, to venture even further, to worry less and rage against the limitations they have bound themselves in. Twenty nine year old Angelo Wilkie-Page’s is soon to embark on an expedition to circumnavigate the globe from East to West and Pole to Pole, crossing all lines of latitude and longitude, using only human power. I got the opportunity to ask him a few question before he sets off on Expedition 720° in just over a month’s time.

Courtesy of Expedition 720°

Courtesy of Expedition 720°

1. Eight years without a home, without staying still, without your family and friends around you. Is that an issue for you or are you looking forward to that escape?

Fortunately this is not a non-stop circumnavigation. The route is designed in 2 parts east to west and pole-to-pole, each part is broken up into 4 legs. I have no problem spending time on my own; in fact I enjoy it. I’m not married and don’t have kids. If I did have children I don’t think that I would attempt a project of this nature. I am looking forward to physically starting Expedition 720°.

2.You are 29 years old, what makes now the right time to embark on something like this?

I would say now is the right time for me personally at 29, as all my life experiences have led and partly prepared me for this expedition. I don’t think I would have been ready for this 3 years ago, and I don’t want to leave it till later in life. The timing is right for it now.

3. How is your head dealing with the sheer scale of the expedition? How will you keep your mind in check so as not to become overwhelmed?

I only concentrate on the stage or leg ahead of me; there is no point stressing about leg 6 when I’m on leg 1. I feel it’s important to be adaptable, as there are some many outside factors that can influence the expedition. Best thing I find is to look a few steps ahead but focus on the present.

4.The expedition will require a lot of equipment for it’s different stages, will it all be pre set up (boat, bike etc)?

Each leg is very unique and equipment will adapt as per individual leg requirements. At this point I am fully equipped for the first cycle leg from Los Angeles to Anchorage, but I will use a different bike setup for Siberia and Mongolia. The Atlantic rowing boat is currently being constructed, along with the ocean kayak that will be used for the Bearing straight crossing.

5. Aside from raising money for charity and conducting research, what is your motivation for doing this? Have you never found something to hold you in the 9-5 world?

I worked as a commodities trader for three years before leaving to work in the yachting industry. I can’t see myself going back to a corporate 9-5. Attempting a project of this magnitude one needs to be 100% committed, I can’t have any doubts about going to back to corporate. Expedition 720° is my 9-5! I’m all in.

6. I know this is a childish question but will it be any fun or all hard grit?

I hope it will be more fun than hard grit, I expect to meet, see and experience some wonderful people and places along the route. I will make sure to take time out for enjoyment and the odd beer. It’s a once in a lifetime expedition, doing what I love so to answer your question more fun than hard grit.

7. With it been a world first, is failure something you’ve considered?

I have been told that I can be rather stubborn, I don’t give up easily. The thing about an expedition of this nature is that there are so many external elements that could play a role in the success or failure of the expedition. Elements such as shifting ice, rough waves, being hit by a car, visa’s, consistent campaigning, extreme weather conditions, health these are a few factors that could get in the way of the project. My strategy is to complete one kilometer at a time and be as safe as possible.

8. The expedition could take up to eight years, that means you will be 38 when you finish. I know I am getting ahead of myself here but have you considered how will you adjust to normal life after that?

If I complete this project I would have achieved a lifelong dream. Ill cross that bridge when the time comes. Adjusting I’m sure would not be easy and might take a while.

Follow every step of Wilkie-Page’s expedition on his website, Facebook or Twitter page.

Courtesy of Expedition 720°

Courtesy of Expedition 720°

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Adventure, Interviews

Interview with Derek Cullen – Cycling solo across Africa

Tired of the monotony of everyday life, 32 year old Irishman Derek Cullen mounted an old bike and began an epic unsupported cycle across Africa. It is a story with the potential to inspire the ordinary person, to break down the very shackles that we confine ourselves to.  I, myself really wanted to interview him, as I am well short of a few Irish adventurers to look up to. And he is every bit the stereotype (the good one) :  the pale skin, the ginger beard, the easy warm character, the sense of humour and of course he is much more modest than he needs to be. This interview, I hope, will make you smile, as it did to me,  and maybe plant a tiny thought into your mind; if he can do it, then why can I not do it too?

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1.What is your current location?

Arusha, Tanzania – exactly half way between the start point Cape Town & Cairo.

2.What type of bike are you ridding?

Trek820 – it’s nothing fancy, 13 years old, has 23 gears and god knows how many previous owners.

3.What have you packed in your panniers?

Clothes, cooking gear, sleeping bag, tent, cameras, water – anything you’d need to survive a wilderness area.

4.What books have you brought with you to entertain you in the evenings?

Arabian Sands, Adrift, Into the Wild, Into Thin Air – are you seeing the trend? Mostly adventure stories about ridiculously lonesome journeys!

5.How are you navigating?

Map and compass, to be honest it would be harder to go the wrong way – there’s not many roads down here. I’ve got the distance wrong several times but who cares, I just pitch the tent behind a bush and carry on the next morning.

6.What distance are you covering each day?

Usually between 60 – 100km. The most covered in a day was 160km, the least 20km (exhausted). I travel very slowly even against bicycle standards, I like to spend more time anywhere that’s cool.

7.What does your diet consist of on the road?

On the bike – bananas, chocolate, biscuits, water, water, water. Off the bike – two minute noodles, beans, rice, heaps of local food (god knows what some of the meat really is). You eat like a horse doing this and literally give up being fussy.

8.What was your cycling experience like before you embarked on this massive trip?

Believe it or not – none. I was never a fan of cycling as strange as that may sound – it’s just the mode in which I seek adventure! My brother likes to tell people about how I struggled to cycle to his house last year in Ireland, I barely made it home – it was a 10km ride.

9.Have you discovered anything about your character, about who you are as a person?

Yeah completely, I realised the world didn’t revolve around me for a start – that was disappointing! It has changed me in ways I never thought imaginable, facing fears and taking on such a big challenge has brought huge confidence and a lot of humility. I genuinely feel a much “better person” now than ever before.

10.Does the joy outweigh the suffering on the road?

Every. Single. Time.

There are pretty depressing times, especially the aspect of being alone so long, for so often – but you get over that. Three words – Cycling with Giraffes.  I can’t forget that people are living hard lives back home, I’m very lucky to be where I am.

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11. As you make progress, has the fear and anxiety you have mentioned before become more manageable or are you still dealing with it on a daily basis?

It may sound too good to be true but the anxiety has all but disappeared.  I spent a lot of time worrying at the beginning but the anxieties proved to be “false concerns” every time – I literally stopped bothering to worry about what never seemed to happen anyway! I still feel the fear of course, that’s a healthy concern to have and I don’t think I’ll ever get over the worry of having Hyenas or lions around my tent.

12. How are you finding using social media and a blog to document your trip? Is it a motivator not to quit or does it take away a little from the adventure?

A lot of work goes into it for sure but it’s worth it for the chance of sharing this experience with someone. Also, writing fills a lot of spare time that is usually spent alone.

13. I am allowed stereotype you here because I am also Irish, but how are you not burnt alive with the heat?!

Yeah it’s kinda hot alright, I got heat exhaustion in the lower Namibia Desert which involved not having the energy to roll over and two days of falling asleep. That was enough reason to be careful in the future. I wear a wide brimmed hat (which looks stupid, I know) and keep putting sun cream on the arms – everything else stays covered while cycling. Yes, I have a farmers tan.

Speaking of stereotypes, I’ve had less than 15 bottles of beer in 7 months – beat that Ireland!

14. How do you make yourself get up and ride again the next day after having a shit day (aka how are you keeping your head in the right place)?

That’s been difficult, I doubt anyone could properly understand just how hard this gets when you spend so much time alone. I keep mentioning being alone but it’s the most influential factor of the trip each day and for staying motivated. The answer is, some days I just do and some days I just don’t – I just stay where I am until the mood has passed.

In general, I keep my head together by finding meaning in everything that happens. No matter how bad it gets, there is always a positive way to look at it. Looking down from the top of a mountain with the bicycle is an empowering feeling but it never feels like that at the time of cycling uphill to get there.

15. Is the journey harder than you thought, or is it living up to your expectations?

Harder yes but not for the reasons I would have thought prior. Physically, it is tough but manageable. Mentally, it can be a right battle. The trip has exceeded anything I could have imagined, it is the single most profound experience in my thirty two years and has definitely changed my outlook on life.

16. Is the stereotypical image of Africa of a poverty stricken and dangerous continent holding true?

Poverty, yes at times but what many people don’t realise is that most Africans are happy with their conditions – they still live traditionally and get by with what they have. It’s wrong of the western world to think of Africans as unprivileged for not having the same standard of living. If you ask me, the simple life being led in these parts has resulted in a community that is much richer and far more content than the complicated world we live in. Mobile phones are everywhere you go now, it disappoints me to see this in Africa too.

Africa is no more dangerous than London, New York, Dublin or Rome. If anything people here are more friendly. The danger associated with Africa is derived from western media and peoples natural feeling to fear the unknown.

17. Why are you doing it, what was the trigger?

My life was crap!!

I was so bored, I wasn’t happy with work, my social life was average, I felt I wasn’t growing or doing what I really wanted to do. Nobody needs to feel this way, it’s a choice really.

I genuinely thought if there was any real meaning to life, it had to be out there to experience but I needed to “go out there” first in order to find out.

18. How are you coping with being alone for so many hours each day?

It can be quite depressing but mostly a great experience. You learn to be your best friend in a situation like this – I really needed that, to gain a better opinion and respect for myself.

19. You are obviously fit by now – 6,000km in. Is the actual physical cycle itself no longer the hard part?

Yes and no. Physically, it gets harder over time with the constant strain on the body but by then you have learnt to just get on with it so it cancels it out somewhat. Being alone and keeping a sane mental state is by far the biggest challenge.

20. What are the descents/downhill’s like?

Elation – to the point of feeling crazy and screaming random words before realising the locals are watching….and continuing on anyway!

Along with “being tied down” and having kids (thinking ahead!) I’ve already no doubt they will be the happiest memories I will ever have – it’s been worth the risk.

Follow Derek’s journey via his website, Twitter or Facebook page.

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Adventure, Cinematography

Video: Eleutheromania

So this is it.

Four years of university. Four years in Edinburgh. Done.

Years of being broke, of trying to fit in, then trying to stand out. Years of craving to escape Ireland, then crying from homesickness and calling up Mammy on the phone to let me come home. Four years of crappy jobs, of acne, of tears but also four years of making the most brilliant of friends, of dancing, of surfing, of laughing. Four hard but brilliant years. And it all comes down to this. It is decision making time.

Where do I go from here? Here I sit, yearning for freedom, for the life of an adventurer, but been held back by two empty bank accounts,  by the fear of sleeping wild in a tent alone. By the fear of failing and having to start again. The fear of mean people. The fear that the people who keep telling me, that as a girl I must beware of certain things, will be proved right. The fear of rejection. The fear of not being good enough. The fear of always wanting more. But most of all, the fear of taking the easy way out and shoving all those dreams down for the comfortable life, just for now, in the hope that one day I won’t be afraid. The ever elusive one day.

I leave you with my final university assignment, a ten minute documentary entitled; Eleutheromania; which denotes an irresistible desire for freedom. It is far from perfect, poor Alastair Humphreys looks a little blue due to my failure to check the white balance, and the brilliant Em Bell is a bit blurry at times and Jamie Bunchuk is looking at the camera instead of at me (again my fault). But bear with me, I am still learning, I am still raw and unpolished, still finding my way, still tripping up regularly, but I am on the way. Be kind, I know my faults. Just bear with me on this journey, I only promise that it will be worth it.

One day…

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Adventure, Reviews, Sports

Ten short adventure videos that you should watch

These ten edits are some of my favourite from the past year. They will make you think. They will make you smile. They will make you so jealous that perhaps you will re-evaluate some things. They may also force you to look on life, the world and the people in it a little differently from now on.

1. This is Backcountry

2. 35

35 from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.

3. Racing through the elements – Red Bull Elements 2013

4. Motion Reel

Motion Reel from Morgan Maassen on Vimeo.

5. Open Eye Signal – Jon Hopkins

Open Eye Signal – Jon Hopkins from AOIFE MCARDLE on Vimeo.

6. Adventure is a way of life, welcome to 2014

adventure is a way of life, welcome to 2014 from Laurent Jamet on Vimeo.

7. Cascada

CASCADA from NRS Films on Vimeo.

8.The North Face: The Explorer

9.The Joy of Air

The Joy of Air from ARC’TERYX on Vimeo.

10. North of the Sun

North of the sun teaser from weggebros on Vimeo.

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Adventure, Interviews, Running, Running

A quick interview with Tom Denniss

A minute with Tom Denniss who has just completed the fastest circumnavigation of the globe on foot.

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1.What was your daily routine while en route?

Wake up, breakfast, get dressed, run, finish the day, do the blog and other documentation, shower, dinner and red wine.

2.How do you plan to deal with the inevitable come down of stopping after that being your life for over 20 months?

Not sure – I’ll do the best I can.

3.What made you do it? Why not just keep running marathons and ultras?

It’s a great way to see the world. I am not interested in marathon or ultra races. I’m simply not capable of running them fast enough to be competitive (sprinting is my forte – 400 metre races). The world run was always at a slow and sustainable pace.

4.How did you convince your wife to commit to it as well?

She was keener than me.

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6.How many pair of trainers/runners did you go through? 17

7.Was there ever a moment while on course when you felt that you could not do it?

No, although it was difficult at times.

8.How much of your success was dependent on mindset and how much was physical?

Probably 50/50.

9.What did you sleep in each night, tents/houses…?

Mostly hotels.

10. Why did you pick Oxfam as your charity?

I had donated to Oxfam for years, plus they have a history of fund raising events involving running.

11.How was the final day?

Short, but very enjoyable.

12. 26,000 km –  622 marathons. How is your body, especially your feet now?

I feel stronger than ever, especially around the knees and other joints. My feet were the only part that ached a bit by the end of each day, but that’s normal for someone who spends eight hours at a time on their feet.

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13. Did you succeed in it being the “Fastest Circumnavigation of the Earth on Foot”?

Yes, although I need to submit my documentation for ratification before it becomes official.

14. How your perspective on life changed as a result of this adventure?

I think I’m pretty much the same, except I now have a fantastic adventure under my belt.

Follow Tom’s adventures through his facebook, Twitter or blog page.

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