A few weeks ago, Nicole and I watched Mark Beaumont‘s Cycling the Americas on the iPlayer – the fascinating documentary about the Scotsman’s attempt to cycle the length of the Americas, taking in North and South America’s highest mountains along the way. It was a follow-on from his earlier record-breaking adventure, The Man Who Cycled The World (clearly, then, he missed a bit the first time if he then had to go back and do the Americas, but I digress!).
The programmes were fascinating, giving an enthralling window into endurance cycling and the cultures of the Americas. It was exciting, therefore, when we heard he would be speaking about his adventures at Eden Court. That was last night, and it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening.
Armed with only a projector (plus three bikes for props), he delivered a fascinating lecture, peppered with photos and video, about firstly his journey around the world, and secondly his Americas tour – which he only returned from about eleven weeks ago.
During the half-time break, as I was coming out of the loo, I bumped into him and mumbled something about what a fascinating first half it had been (had I thought a bit faster and more wittily, I’d have said something like “you been in that Mark Beaumont thing? Man, I thought he was going to drone on all night, eh?”). He said thank you, and asked if I was a cyclist. “No”, I said, “I much prefer other people to put in effort like that and just tell me about it afterwards.”
But his question perhaps demonstrated an extreme modesty on his part, that his audience might primarily be cyclists. Far from it, in fact – you didn’t need to be an endurance cyclist (or even a tandem enthusiast or comedy unicylist) to appreciate Mark Beaumont’s story. He told us a lot about the gruelling mountain climbs he did in Alaska and Argentina at either end of the Americas trip; he gave intimate portrayals of his adventures on the road in some fascinating parts of the world; and it was also an interesting guide to making a one-man documentary.
That said, it was definitely interesting hearing about the cycling itself. The idea of cycling 100 miles a day, seeing beautiful countries at close quarters, and having to eat twice as much food as normal every day for months on end, sounds exactly like my cup of tea (apart from the bit about cycling 100 miles a day, of course).
With his compelling narrative, wonderfully dry and humble wit, and beautiful pictures and video, it was an evening about cycling, about mountaineering, about far-off cultures, about the technicalities of documentary-making, about planning major expeditions, and above all about having an idea, committing to it, and completing it. In short, it was about identifying and realising one’s ambitions.
He has other dates coming on his lecture tour (see his website – and you can also follow him on Twitter) and I can heartily recommend going to see him if you can. His book about the round-the-world trip looks fascinating too, and I’m sure I’ll buy it once I cobble the pennies together.
Mark Beaumont must already be one of the great Scots of the present day, and it will be interesting to see what he gets up to next.