First person: 'I cycled round the world in record time'

Mark Beaumont, 26
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The Independent Online

I got my first proper bike when I was nine years old – a little white Peugeot mountain bike. Around where I lived were the tracks used for the Scottish RAC rally: it was a perfect playground. When I was 11 I read an article about riding from John O'Groats to Land's End, and I wanted to do it. My mum and dad had a better idea of how long that actually was. So when I was 12 they said I should go from Dundee to Oban instead – 145 miles rather than 1,000. I waited until I was 15 to do John O'Groats to Land's End, and set an age record for that. I didn't know I was setting an age record – it was always just about the adventure, not a grand plan.

At university I studied economics and politics, and planned to go into finance. When I looked at people in the jobs I'd fantasised about, though, it wasn't what I'd imagined. My ambitions lay elsewhere. But once I'd decided to make cycling my career I knew it was going to be hard to get off the ground. So I set about the biggest challenge I could: the world. The last world record, in 2004, was 276 days. I figured it was possible to train to cycle 100 miles daily with a day off every fortnight, so I set my goal at 195 days. The hardest part was getting to the start line – I'd never raced, so it took eight months to get my first sponsor. They were buying into my ambition and dream; I didn't have much on paper to prove I could achieve my goal. But then it all happened at once and the BBC was interested in me making a documentary about it too.

I started at the Arc de Triomphe and cycled 18,000 miles eastwards. There were some hard points: in Pakistan it was desert riding, and a real struggle to find water – I had an armed police escort during the day and at night I was locked in police stations. There was also the 3,000 miles into the headwind in the Australian outback. And I had one bad day in Louisiana: I was run over, and quite scraped up. My bike was damaged too and later that day when I was getting it fixed, I was mugged. My wallet and BBC camera were stolen, and it took a lot of help from home to get back on the road in 24 hours. There were certainly moments when it was harder to pick myself up, but you don't feel like you're racing around the world – it's a series of consecutive 100 miles races. If you have to give up on one day's goal, it's not giving up on the big picture.

When I got to the finish line it was strange – everyone else was far more excited than I was; I was utterly exhausted. I'd been doing 200km days back to back since Lisbon, and had to keep pinching myself that this was the huge climax. It was in the final mile when the police escort joined me that the adrenalin kicked in: my main excitement was seeing my friends and family again – the accolade of a world record took weeks to sink in. I'd broken the record by two months, but I wasn't racing that – I'd been racing myself. I broke my own goal by eight hours.

pedallingaround.com

firstperson@independent.co.uk

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