Pedalling around the world in 80 days

Mark Beaumont | Around the World in Eighty Days

In 2008 Mark Beaumont, adventurer and broadcaster, cycled around the world in 194 days. On the 2nd of July 2017, Mark set off from Paris aiming to do the same trip in a world record time of only 80 days.

Mark’s 18,000 mile journey will take him through Europe, Russia, Mongolia and China before cycling between Perth and Brisbane in Australia. Following a stint in New Zealand, Mark will then head for the United States and Canada, finishing off his journey by cycling from Lisbon back to Paris. To do it in 80 days he’ll need to be back in Paris by September 21.

Hiscox is delighted to support Mark’s epic trip and before he set off, we asked him to let us into some of the secrets of an endurance athlete.

How do you train for such a big event?
I’ve been training between 30-35 hours a week. The big concern for me is not about out-and-out speed it’s about injury prevention; having great all round conditioning.

This year I spent January in Spain just to get that big mile training block. Since then I’ve been back in the UK putting in the serious miles. April was my final big training ride – 3,300 miles which I completed in 14 days around the coastline of Britain. The importance of that was to prove the ‘80 days’ concept and ride at ‘80 day’ pace.

Once you’re physically able to ride huge miles it is purely a psychological game. You’ve got to have that understanding of what motivates you through the big rides. I’ve done vast distances over the last decade and cycled through 60 countries which gives me an understanding of how you think your way through these challenges. 

You are attempting to break the world record by a significant margin (43 days) why have you set this target?
What I wanted to do with this project is strip all the variables away – all the unknowns – have full support on the way and make this purely about performance. How far and fast can I go? I’ve cycled around the world before and I have no interest in doing it in the same style. At this point in my career I’m probably in the best shape of my life and have the physical and psychological experience to shoot for the stars and figure out what’s possible.

What do you eat to keep you going?
I am fuelling from 3.30am to 10pm – eating about 8,000 calories a day which is a lot of food. My fix is a good coffee and a chocolate bar at the right time will pick me up psychologically. A lot of my meals are baby food – everything chucked in a blender, which makes it an easier way to absorb calories quickly and take food while on the bike.

You’re aiming to do 240 miles and sixteen hours a day on the bike, what do you think about during the time to stop boredom?
Time is almost irrelevant. You learn that mind game through ultra-endurance because otherwise you get scared out of the big picture. Your focus is the next hill, the landscape around you or a rest in 20 minutes’ time. I describe ultra-endurance as very brutal but very simple. If your mind gets lost in the scale of the challenge you would probably scare yourself out of it.

I listen to music sometimes, or podcasts, but less than you’d imagine. I often have my earphones in but it’s normally so I can take phone calls from my support team. Music can be great if you’re in the right mindset but it punctuates time.

I tend to find every afternoon about 2, 3 or 4pm is where I have a big mental slump. It’s quite natural because you’ve woken up at 3.30pm, been on the bike by 4am and by mid-afternoon you’ve done  a normal working day and so that’s when I start to feel sleepy on the bike. If you fight through, by 5 or 6pm you’re completely alert.

Which area of the world are you most looking forward to cycling through?
Stage one which is Paris to Beijing is the bit I’m most concerned about because it’s the stage where things are most likely to go wrong such as tricky border crossings and cultures which are furthest from home. But the adventurer in me says that’s probably the bit I’m most excited about as well. Russia, Mongolia, China – these are some of the only countries that I’ve not cycled through before. I’ll be hugely relieved to get through the first month on time and safely.

What advice would you give to others who are attempting a physical challenge that they have never done before?
I’m a huge advocate for learning your trade. Dream big and go for it but if you do have a big idea, figure out what steps it takes to get there. If your dream is to race across America or cycle from John O’Groats to Lands End, it’s tough, but there is no academic way to prepare yourself for what it takes psychologically and physically. You need to build up. I encourage people to keep hold of those big dreams on the bike and then get busy doing stuff. It’s about going out there and learning how to do it.

Do you have a role model?
When I was growing up as a teenager following the Tour de France I was a big Mario Cipollini fan. I watch the pro cycling tour but most of my references now are the guys and girls pushing ultra-endurance. There are some phenomenal riders out there. In ten years I think we’ll see a lot of professional riders turning their hand to ultra records so it’s exciting to be part of that generation.

And what about after the challenge is finished? More road trips?
After the ‘world’ trip I look forward to going back to some more adventure cycling, doing some more dirt bike and gravel riding. At the moment it is purely about performance and roads. Socially I’d rather go out with my mates through the trails rather than the road.

You can keep track of Mark’s progress via (external link).