Interview with Adventurer Nick Hancock

“There can be no place more desolate, despairing and awful.” – Lord Kennet (1971)

Last summer Nick Hancock landed on an isolated rock in the North Atlantic Ocean in pursuit of two records, the longest solo occupation of Rockall and the longest occupation of Rockall in history, after 45 days in solitude he achieved both, earning himself a nomination for Adventurer of the Year. I got the opportunity recently to discuss the incredible expedition with the man himself.

Credit: Simon Wright

Credit: Simon Wright

1. Where did you get the idea from?

I was made redundant in 2008 and moved to Scotland. There was no work in property, so I took a job in an outdoor clothing shop. Whilst there, and bored at the till one day, I decided I needed a challenge and started to research the possibility of sea kayaking from mainland Scotland to St. Kilda, via Skye and the Outer Hebrides. In doing that I came across a story about some Spanish sailors being ship wrecked on Rockall and making it safely to St. Kilda. That drew my attention West. I read a lot about the rock and quickly became aware of the existing group and solo occupation records. I decided then that I wanted to visit and hopefully break the records.

2. What gear did you bring with you?

I had to take all of my food and water for two months as there’s no fresh water supply on Rockall and nowhere to prepare fresh food. I also had to take a method of generating power in order that I could charge the communications equipment and electronics I took with me, so I built an Ampair wind turbine on top of Rockall, which provided more than sufficient power, and I was loaned a BGAN satellite unit by Inmarsat, via which I could blog and Tweet. In addition to these key items, I also had a laptop, from which I blogged, and which had hundreds of ebooks on for passing the time.

3. What item proved the most useful?

It was probably a combination of the laptop, BGAN unit and my satellite phone, all of which I used to get up to date weather forecasts, so I knew what weather was coming and the sea state to expect, and also, after the storm, they were critical to communicating and planning my exit strategy.

4. What was your day to day routine like for the 45 days?

In order to eat into the time I tried to slow everything I did down and take as long as possible over tasks. There was no concurrent activity out there. I’d generally tried to not get out of my sleeping bag before 0900 and would then take an average of around an hour to have breakfast and complete daily ablutions. Then, depending on the forecast, I would either read, if the weather was poor, or I would get out of the RockPod and exercise, collect samples, measure features, or generally try and enjoy being there by watching the wildlife. Lunch was around 1400, and I would eat again around 1900, after checking the forecasts online, before more reading and bedding down around 2200hrs.

  1. Was there even a decent piece of flat to set up camp on?

The summit is properly flat, as it was blown off by the Royal Engineers for a light beacon to be fitted. Unfortunately it’s too small to live on and most of it is taken up by the light housing. A few metres below the summit is Hall’s Ledge, named after the first person recorded to have landed on Rockall. It’s generally level although not particularly flat, nor big at around 11’ by 4’ at the widest points, but it offers the best place for a shelter and is where I and the previous occupants set up camp.

  1. What did you see while out there…marine life, seabirds etc?

There were lots of birds all the time, mostly gannets and guillemots, but also puffins, shearwaters and even a couple of lost racing pigeons and a starling! In terms of mammals, there were often two or three seals about, hunting in the shallower water around Rockall and Hasselwood Rock (about 100 metres to the North). The most spectacular sight though was the minke whales, of which there were at least three if not four or five around at any one time. It was amazing to be able to watch them hunt and blow at the surface, and I spent a lot of time just sitting and enjoying the privilege.

Credit: Michael Schofield

Credit: Michael Schofield

  1. What kind of training was involved?

Physically it was just a matter of being fit and strong enough for the initial climb, the descent at the end, and hauling and lowering kit up the rock. Apart from that, I had to learn quite a few new skills relating to winching and hauling the RockPod, for which I trained with the local Fire and Rescue team instructors. Mentally, I’m pretty self-reliant anyway, and am able to entertain myself, so it was just a matter of setting enough tasks to stave off any boredom.

  1. You managed 45 days, but had planned for sixty, what happened?

I had originally planned to stay for two months as the existing records were 40 days solo and 42 days as a group; I wanted to beat these records and push them out far enough that they wouldn’t be broken for a while. Two months was a good round number to aim for and fitted within the tight weather window that summer in the North Atlantic allowed. Early in the morning of day 28, I was hit by a Force 9 storm which dislodged my shelter, the RockPod, and also ripped away four of my barrels of food and equipment. This left me with around fifty days’ worth of food if I was frugal, and I then had to strike a balance with the weather forecasts, food reserves and when the charter boat was available to get me. This all came together at forty five days, which is why I left the rock then.

  1. The planning and logistics of this expedition must of been a nightmare? How long did it take to get it all together?

I had originally thought that I would be ready to go in two years and the expedition was christened ‘Rockall 2011’ as I hoped to land in the 200th anniversary year of the first recorded landing. In reality, it took five years hard work to design and build the RockPod, find a suitable boat (the one I used wasn’t even launched until 2012) and to raise the funding to pay for the boat fuel and charter. That included a reconnaissance trip and a failed attempt to land in 2013 due to bad weather.

  1. What safety precautions had you in place in case of an emergency?

The coastguard knew I was on the rock, and I was just on the outer limit of helicopter rescue; although it would take several hours and a refuel to get to me, and then they would have less than half an hour on site to search for me. I took with me an EPIRB, and SPOT location beacon which I set off every morning to say that I was OK, and my satellite phone also had an emergency beacon built in. In terms of living on the rock, whenever I was out of the pod I wore a climbing harness and was tethered to Rockall with a life line clipped into various anchors around the summit and Hall’s Ledge. I didn’t want to slip off!

  1. Did you experience any fear, putting that much trust in the elements and also being completely reliant on the gear you bring to survive?

The only time I was scared was during the storm I mentioned. I was on my own, 250 miles out in the North Atlantic, in a Force 9, in the middle of the night. I couldn’t see anything it was so dark, and I couldn’t leave the RockPod for fear of the high winds and waves. Around one in the morning, after a lot of spray and few small waves had hit the pod, a large wave came and shunted my shelter across the ledge. I didn’t know if the straps holding me down were still attached, and couldn’t check because of the weather conditions. I just had to lie there and hope that was the worst of it. The pod quickly slipped back to near its original position, but in the morning I saw that a number of the straps were slack and an anchor bolt had bent under the force of the water that hit. It was not an experience I ever want to repeat.

  1. Can you describe what the Rockpod is?

The RockPod is a converted water bowser like the ones you see at road works. It’s a rigid plastic capsule that would have held around 2.5 tonnes of water, so it very strong, but light too. I added an access hatch, port hole and deck vent from Lewmar in order to provide light and ventilation, and bolted fourteen 1 tonne rated lifting points to the shell so that I could tie it down to Rockall with ratchet straps. I then levelled the floor with plastic sheeting and insulated it with spray on expanding foam insulation. The only other thing I did was to screw a plywood sheet on the bottom to level out the concave base in order to assist with the initial winching up the rock at the start of the expedition. It was perhaps more an evolutionary process then direct design, but I had certain requirements that my shelter had to fulfil, and what resulted was a strong, light weight, water proof shelter that floated and could be relatively easily winched.

  1. Will you return for an attempt at sixty days or are you done with it for good?

No, I won’t go back to try and extend my record, even if someone does beat it. I am hoping to go back to Rockall soon though, perhaps next year. The place just gets under your skin.

  1. What was the highlight of the trip?

That’s hard to answer, there were so many highlights: the minke whales, watching an amazing sunset and knowing you were the only one seeing it, the solitude (a rare thing in the world these days), surviving the storm, speaking to passing vessels over the VHF, and then seeing my ride home coming over the horizon. All were fantastic in their own way and went together to make the expedition an amazing experience for me.

Follow Nick’s future adventures on Twitter @RockallNick or his website.

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.

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°

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.

Review: Born to Run

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This is a book that I will henceforth carry with me forever more, stuffed in the side pocket of my backpack. It will be worn and creased, the spine having long gave way, the pages all dog leafed marking the spots where I pause and re-pause. It will stay in my backpack as I roam, as I run, as I explore the world. It will be my pocketbook manual for all things running, all things journalism, and all things life.

A beautiful tale by Christopher McDougall about a culture and a way of life. At its most basic, it is a history of ultrarunning, the toughest of endurance sports. It is about barefoot running, that feeling of power beneath your feet. It is about the Tarahumara  people who have long excelled in the art of long distance running. At its deepest it is about camaraderie, friendship, and freedom. It is an ode to a sport that is accessible to all.

It started slow, and proved difficult to get into at first. I got distracted by life but one day, about a quarter of the way through the book, it caught me and took hold. Within two days I finished it and wanted more. That day I went for the longest run I have done in a while, no complaints, no faffing about, I just ran. I corrected my posture, I smiled and the difference it made was astonishing. I ran harder, I ran faster and for once when I smiled at passerby’s, they smiled back at me.

The book is intense and memorising, you can hear the pulsing of life through its pages, hear the feet padding the dusty earth beneath, the panting of their breath, their heart in their ears, feel the beads of sweat forming , the tightening and relaxing muscles and a smile will inch its way slowly across your face.

The secret to happiness lies within its very pages.

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Review: North of the Sun

I have no more excuses left. These two youths have robbed me of them all. The incredibly talented Inge Wegge and Jørn Ranum have created this forty six minute documentary ‘North of the Sun’ of their nine month adventure to an Arctic island by the coast of Northern-Norway. They build a cabin out of trash that has washed up on the shore, they surf, they paraglide, they snowboard, they film and honestly it took my breath away. No more excuses to postpone the adventures twirling around in my mind. If you only have $5/£2.96/€3.60 left in your bank account and the choice is between a microwave meal, a pint of Tennent’s or a night in watching this. Please choose this, it will save your day, perhaps change your life. Absolute magic.

Rent or buy it here.

If you aren’t convinced, watch the trailer below:

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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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Interview with David of the 5000 mile Project

David and Katharine are 13months into running the length of South America. 5000miles through rainforest and mountains to raise both money and awareness for the environment. I got in contact with Dave when he emerged from the rainforest for a brief spell to hear about their amazing story so far.

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1.You ran to raise awareness and get people passionate about nature again, do you think it has been working?

Ha, that’s a tough one to start with! I think it depends on what level. Locally, when we stop at a school midway through our running day it is a fantastic opportunity to inspire – it’s easy! We are there with people, we are enthusing about the natural world around us, we have images and video and feathers we find by the road to identify and the feedback is immediate, people are psyched! From afar, who knows?!

People are used to sporting events been used to raise money for cancer or other human-related causes, not wildlife. The publics reaction can depend on class and country, but generally speaking most people are resistant to anything that they see as an attack on their current way of life – it’s the human condition. We are saying, “look out the window, the natural world is utterly amazing”, people are hearing, “these guys are greenies trying to make it more difficult for me to have a big car!”

Also, depending on the media,  feedback isn’t immediate, in fact with some forms of media e.g. radio, you never receive it! So its hard to tell.

2.What do people need to do to help?

It’s easy, have an affair with nature! People of any physical condition can do it – go out, be in the real world, be amazed by the complex natural systems that support human life, ask questions, investigate, learn that we are part of nature, not above it! We are passionate that so long as people know more about the natural world’s secrets, there is a chance that we can reverse the damage we are currently inflicting on out planets life support systems.

To help people find tangible actions that suit their lifestyle, we’ve set up a campaign with ‘DoNation’ which anyone can join and help do cool things for the planet. We’re also raising money for Birdlife and Armonia and Conservatcion Patagonica.

3.What running experience did you have before this?

We are both keen recreational runners, no more than that, with the odd longer competition under our belt. Kath has ran the 45 mile ‘4 INNS’ race several times. I have enjoyed the Scottish Islands Peaks Race, and Northumberlands Castles and Islands, both sailing/running events, but mainly we run for the fun of being outside in all weather.  Nothing better for de-stressing!

4.How are your feet withstanding this?

Really good, I haven’t had a single blister! We have a nice combination of shoes for running with the trailer and running free, plus we go barefoot about 10% of the miles now – its great for training your running style and hardening the feet a little.

5.What distance do you cover on average per day?

Our average running day is now 23miles. We used to find 20 was enough, given the 80kg trailer we run with, and given the fact an injury could end our dream, but now we can smell the finish we are looking to take a few more risks to squeeze a little more out!

6.How do you keep your mind focused and your spirits high after so long on the road?

It’s better not to consider the overall distance remaining – just deal with each shift as it comes, each half hour, each mile, each step if it’s a really tough climb! Each step makes a difference, and we have taken close to 10,000,000. It´s a nice metaphor for the steps people are taking to protect the planet too, 1 in 7bn is daunting, but there is no silver bullet, each small, seemingly insignificant step is making a difference!

7.Any stories of good deeds or amazing people you’ve met along the way?

Many! We are alone a lot, but never far from human kindness. One thing I would say is that the place in which we received the most charity by the roadside; food, drinks, shelter, banter, is Bolivia. What is interesting is that Bolivia is the poorest country in South America!

8.What advantage have the barefoot shoes given you?

They are great. The idea is always to run as naturally as possible at all times. On certain road conditions (or with the trailer!) you simply can not do it with bare feet. The gravel makes you wince or you have road debris, or the asphalt is so hot it sticks to your skin. We slip on the barefoot shoes and we are back on, running lightly with a quick cadence. We change our shoes a lot!

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9.Have you came up with an effective way to treat blisters yet?

Yes! Our INOV-8 race socks have basically all but eliminated them. We are not paid-up athletes so are not obliged to say this, but they work. They are single skin socks and with our INOV-8 and VIVOBAREFOOT. I  have not had a problem in over 5000miles of running in rain, wind, and snow. Barefoot running probably helps too as it hardens your feet.

10.How have you seen your fitness change?

I have no idea when these calves arrived, but they did! We have improved greatly fitness wise, but still there is never an easy 23-mile day running whilst pulling a heavy trailer, sandwiched between other longer running days!

11.How much food and water do you carry on you?

Good question, it varies wildly. We carry the minimum possible whilst making sure we never go hungry. In the more populated areas that could be 2 days worth, maybe 3kg. On the wild stretches (we have carried food for 21 days)probably 100kg! We eat local food and do not use bizarre packet foods which are expensive and unavailable, and seem to me to just taste of stock cubes.

Water, again depends on the territory. We drink a lot, usually 10L each per day, so that’s 20kg water per day on the trailer when we are in dry areas. Good to remember that dehydration is a major cause of running injuries so not to be messed with. In Chile and here in the rainforest we can carry very little as it always available. In Argentina water was the limiting factor, and at times we carried over 30 litres. We use a LifeSaverSystems water filter to pump and clean wild water where it feels like we need to, but this does take valuable running time (and calories!).

12.You have been running for over twelve months, when is the expected date of completion?

20th October 2013, not a day later!

Courtesy of Miky Dubrowsky of www.mediamza.com

Courtesy of Miky Dubrowsky of http://www.mediamza.com

14. What is the coolest animal you’ve seen on route?

I love Guanacos, it´s like a sexy version of a camel with long eyelashes! Best bird moment? An Amazona Parrot landed on Katharine´s shoulder a few days ago whilst we were running past the rainforest. Sounds silly, but we asked it what it was called and it said “Laura”. It’s true! Mind you, it said Laura to everything, whilst nibbling Katharine’s ear.

15. What are you using to navigate?

Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS watch plus google satellite images. Each charge lasts us two days now, and we can charge it with the PowerMonkey solar panel easily in an hour. It’s very good, but I wouldn´t swim with it on as the seals are going, we are really using our equipment!

16.What are you finding the toughest to cope with?

Living by the roadside – it´s sort of a mix between local celebrity and being a tramp! We try to hide as best we can when we are not running but it can be really tough, not having somewhere to call home.

17.How are you getting on with each other after so long in each others pockets?

Can you imagine it?!  We are friends as well as husband and wife, and running partners, but at times we flare up!Sometimes the whole of South America wouldn’t be big enough, and we yell in the wind! Naah, like all relationships we tend to focus our angst on the ones  closest (especially given there is nobody else who speaks your language within 5000miles!), especially when hungry and tired, but we are normally too tired to remember what the thing was all about! What normally happens is some wildlife moment or other gets in the way of our mood, and we end up saying ¨wow, what the hell was that?!¨.

18. What’s the best piece of gear you have brought?

INOV-8 wrags! It is a little piece of fabric that we cannot live without! They protect us from the sun, wind, dust, rubs in a myriad of places best left undisclosed!!

Follow the pairs journey on their website, twitter or facebook page.

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An interview with Simon Reeve

Check out my interview with adventurer and TV presenter Simon Reeve on Sidetracked online.

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Over the last ten years, author, adventurer and TV presenter Simon Reeve has travelled the world with a camera in tow to record his extraordinary experiences for shows such as Equator, Tropic of Cancer, Tropic of Capricorn and Indian Ocean and now his latest adventure ‘Australia’, is showing in the UK on BBC 2. We spoke to Simon about his past, current and future adventures.

Sidetracked: Hi Simon, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us. Author, adventurer and presenter: which do you think best represents you?

Simon Reeve: An adventurer would be one of the descriptions I might use if I was feeling really poncey along with author. I like calling myself an author because I wrote a book and I’ll be trading off that for probably the rest of my life. Also now, probably my most important title is dad and that’s the hardest one to live up to.

So tell us a little more about your book, and how did you go from writing to presenting?

I really don’t know how that happened to be honest. It’s really bizarre. I wrote a book on al-qada that came out in 1998 which warned of a new era of terrorism and nobody took any notice whatsoever and then 9-11 happened and it became a best seller, I went on the telly to talk about it quite a lot and that lead to discussions with the BBC about making TV programs for them. I had my own hair and teeth and I had written this book that had given me some experience and legitimacy and so I set off on a journey for them around central Asia which was interesting. It was an area in which I was really interested in and I thought BBC viewers might like to learn a little bit more about it and so that was my first TV gig. That was around Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan for a series brilliantly titled Meet the Stans and I’ve been going ever since. I can’t believe it. Here I am now ten years later. Don’t tell anyone.

Read the rest of the interview on the Sidetracked website here.

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Interview with BASE jumper Clair Marie

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1.Do you still hold the record for the youngest female jumper?

I still hold the record of being the youngest female BASE jumper, although now its fun to meet people who are younger than I am who are active jumpers.

2.Do you know what the age of the youngest male is?

I believe the youngest male did a BASE jump or two at the age of 14 but he wasn’t an active jumper and just jumped a few times. It is very rare to see young people in our sport who are actually active jumpers.

3.Do you think the reason that there are not more BASE jumpers is because of the high risk factor involved or because of the inaccessibility of the sport?

I believe there are many factors as to why there aren’t more jumpers in the sport. It is still fairly new and most people still view it as reckless even though it is becoming a little more mainstream. It takes a special kind of person to be willing to jump off objects and have trust in the gear, their ability and yet have the desire and drive to do it as well. I don’t believe inaccessibility is an issue as I believe if someone truly wants to participate then they will do what ever is necessary to become a jumper. This usually includes lots of skydiving as well as finding a mentor. I believe if it was more accessible the number of fatalities would increase as people wouldn’t have the preparation necessary to participate in the sport safely.

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4.Do you compete in BASE competitions or is it just in-house competitions to jump from higher and newer routes?

I think every base jumper has a competitive streak. We all want to be known for something. Although there are a few competitions a year for BASE I don’t participate because they are in an area that doesn’t interest me as much as others.

5.Have you tried wingsuit flying?

I own a wingsuit and do really enjoy flying it, but it isn’t my true passion. I prefer what is called a tracking suit. The way it functions is through inflations similar to a wingsuit but instead of one piece, each limb is free and enclosed in the inflated suit, sort of like an inflatable snow suit. It is much harder to fly and manipulate than a wingsuit because of the freedom of the arms and legs. I feel the skill level required to fly it well is very attractive to me and very challenging as well!

6.Where is the most remote place/country you’ve ever jumped from?

I have jumped in some crazy remote places around the world, but most recently I was jumping in Tonsai, Thailand. Although there is a small village below the cliff with food and bars, there is no direct access to emergency care (In a BASE jumpers mind that is one of the factors when talking about remote locations) The nearest hospital would have been a 20 minute long tail boat ride, a decent carry across a beach and then a 45 minute taxi ride into Krabi. Luckily we do our best to not get hurt!

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7.Who are the other big female names in the sport?

Unfortunately there aren’t many female jumpers who capture the attention of the none jumping world but there are a few. Suz Graham who is a professional skier and is very popular in the world of BASE and then of course Roberto Manchino who is still fairly new to the sport but she made her mark for sure. She brought in sponsors from skydiving as well as gained attention because she is an international model. She is continuing to progress in the sport and do amazing things. Its so nice to see that there are more women in the sport now than there were when I started! It shows that the sport is going in the right direction.

8.How often do you get to jump?

I try to jump as often as I can, weather permitting of course, at this point I get several jumps per month! During the spring-fall I am able to get much more jumps

9.Do you have a local spot?

There are a few local spots which all the jumpers usually meet up at to jump together but most of them  aren’t necessarily legal. Because of that I can’t name them, but there is a cliff about 2hrs away that is spectacular and then Moab Ut which is a popular and legal jumping location is a short 6 hour drive away.

10.Advice for the kids who want to do what you’ve done?

Do as much research as you can, read about it, watch it and start skydiving as soon as you turn 18. I know I started with BASE but I had very rare circumstances which helped me to enter into the sport without skydiving. However learning to skydiving and perfecting your only means that when you do start BASE jumping you will already have a solid understanding about the equipment as well as better skills for landing! I depict a lot of my struggles and successes in my book “Won’t Take No For An Answer” which will be released and available on e-book through my website at the end of this month.

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11.What do you pack for a jumping trip?

It really depends on the trip. Most of the time, in addition to my gear, I pack a helmet, knee/shin guards, medical supply kit that stays in the car or at camp for the most part, parachute packing supplies (steak to hold the gear to the ground, pull up cord to close it and a tarp to pack on). As well as collapsible water bottles, medical tape, sunscreen and gopros :P

12.Any pre-jump rituals?

I don’t have any specific pre-jump rituals, however most men in the sport do and it is a disgusting one. They call it the pre-jump dump haha!

13.Why do you think there is so few women in the sport?

In my experience there aren’t many women who follow an extreme sport path. It is very hard for most women to wrap their mind around what I do and why I do it. There is also a lot of criticism and judgement when women participate in the sport. Luckily that is going down as more are introduced but there is still a common belief that BASE is a man’s sport and women have to be very thick skinned to participate while still maintaining their personality.

14.Have you received criticism been a women and doing this?

In the beginning I received some incredibly harsh criticism especially regarding the way I was introduced to the sport. There was a public online forum that bashed me and my instructor in very harsh and descriptive ways. I had a firm belief that in the beginning people were offended that a 16 year old girl was participating in a sport that made them feel like a bad ass, and because I was an active jumper it showed the sport wasn’t as hard core as they wanted it to seem. I think that ego unfortunately gets in the way of a lot of BASE jumpers personalities and it is really sad.

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15.Why did your first ever jump take place in the middle of the night?

My first jump and many of my jumps after have taken place at night because the objects that we jump aren’t necessarily legal and we could get trespassing charges. Therefore we jump at times where there is a decreased chance of being seen.

16.Do you know how many jumps you have made to date?

I have made around 250 BASE jumps as well as 3,500 skydives. I tried to be diligent about keeping track of my jumps in the beginning but it faded after a while. Those numbers are the last recorded numbers I have in my log books.

17.What are your plans for the rest of the year?

The remainder of this year is filled with trips across the country for BASE and for work. Because I work for myself I have the ability of combining most of my work trips with BASE trips. I plan on going to Moab several times as well as Vegas, Norcal and Socal, as well as attending burning man! Travel is when I feel most at home so I do as much of it as I can!

Follow her journey via her websiteFacebook or YouTube account.