Mark is an adventurer, broadcaster, author and Rector of Dundee University. Probably best known for beating the world record for circumnavigating the globe by bicycle. Once in 2008 after graduating from university and again in 2017 in just 78 days, beating the existing record by over 40 days.
Surprisingly, our chat focused very little on the cycling and record attempts themselves. I think this was somewhat refreshing for Mark. I really wanted to get beyond the end product, if you like, and get to know how he has built a business and a sustainable career from adventuring.
How Mark describes his first round the world record attempt definitely carries a formula that he has perfected and used over time. Not necessarily in the sense of performance but in how he chose the challenge and created a narrative around it. He is very much an opportunist and realised that the world record for circumnavigating the globe by bicycle had not been attempted many times and therefore could be beaten. He describes it as a ‘gap in the market’. It’s clear that his degree in economics has very much shaped how he approaches every challenge. The attempt was made solo with his bike and a video camera to keep him company. Along the way he created a video diary which became a BAFTA-nominated BBC documentary, showing the ups and downs of his journey. I think it’s Mark’s ability to identify opportunities like this and combine it with an accessible and compelling narrative that has really accelerated his success.
Mark’s business-minded approach comes across clearly in our chat but what interested me most was how he sets goals. He talks about how we should always measure ourselves up by what is actually possible. Rather than just beating those that have gone before us. It’s a much more driven and defined approach that clearly gets results for Mark.
Type 1 and Type 2 fun are mentioned along the way. I’m not sure if Mark created the analogy but I love it. Type 1 fun is sitting down the pub having a beer with your mates. The things you talk about when you’re there will be Type 2 fun. The experiences that define you as a person. It’s a whole new way of thinking about how we categorise life experiences and their value to us.
We finish by bringing it back to Dundee and when I ask what he would change about the city if given the chance. He talks about more joined-up thinking about sustainable transport. We need to think about how the city will operate in 20-30years time and how sustainable transport will sit next to motorised vehicles. With so much development work happening and 4 lanes of traffic flowing past the waterfront development, it can seem that bikes and other sustainable transport have been overlooked. We still have the opportunity to make a difference but it’s all things we need to get people thinking about right now.