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Pride of Britain winner Jamie 'Adventureman' McDonald at Bishop's Stortford College Festival of Literature




Jamie McDonald is waiting in for a new mattress to be delivered when I call him to speak about his upcoming appearance at the Bishop's Stortford College Festival of Literature.

For someone more used to running solo across the most inhospitable places on Earth, dodging mountain lions and losing body parts to the extreme cold, something as mundane as waiting for the delivery man must seem to him like somewhat of a novelty.

"It's always a bit strange to be home," he admits. "When we got in last night we had one of those 'sorry we missed you' cards through the door. It wasn't anything exciting, just the new drying rack we'd ordered, but it's one of those moments when you do think to yourself 'wow, how has my life changed so dramatically?'"

Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364984)
Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364984)

All joking aside, these periods at home in Gloucester with his partner Anna are essential to allow his body and mind to rest and recuperate from whatever latest intrepid adventure has kept him away from home, often for months on end.

Better known as his alter ego Adventureman, the 34-year-old has dedicated his adult life to pushing himself to the limits of physical endurance, running Forrest Gump-style across continents to raise money for some of the world's most sick children through his Superhero Foundation.

When he appears at the Festival of Literature on Tuesday (February 11), Jamie will be sharing stories from his record-breaking, awe-inspiring journeys, which read like something out of an action adventure novel.

Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27365006)
Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27365006)

His accomplishments are even more remarkable considering he spent most of his early childhood in and out of hospital with a rare and debilitating spinal condition, combined with epilepsy and a very weak immune system. Having feared he would spend most of his life confined to a wheelchair, at the age of nine his symptoms began to ease, something he attributes to discovering a love of being active.

He recalled: "My mum had tied up a piece of string with a ball on the end in the garden and said to me 'Jamie, do you want to play tennis?' I remember thinking 'No, not really, Mum' but I went out and started cracking the ball about and just fell in love with moving.

"Up until that point I'd been so poorly it was just about getting through each day. But after about a year all my symptoms disappeared and I managed to get my health back, when really I should have ended up in a wheelchair, or worse."

He was spotted by a local tennis coach who encouraged him to take lessons. "He was the first person outside my family who believed in me, and that is a magical thing," he said. "He created an identity for me and showed me that I was made for something in this world. What I really wanted was to be the next Tim Henman and win Wimbledon, but when I was about 16 I worked out that I was actually absolutely terrible at tennis."

Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27365004)
Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27365004)

The Pride of Britain award winner said, however, that what he has since gone on to accomplish in order to give back to the hospitals that supported him when he was young far outweighs ever being able to lift the winner's trophy on Centre Court.

As Adventureman, he has cycled 14,000 miles from Bangkok to his home town on a second-hand bike, set the world static cycling record of 224 hours and 24 minutes, made history by becoming the first person to run the 5,000 miles across Canada without the aid of a support crew, run 5,500 miles across the United States and spent seven days on a treadmill covering a record-breaking 524 miles.

Along the way he has been shot at, arrested, lost the tip of his nose to frostbite and won a legion of fans.

Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364990)
Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364990)

"On my first adventure, when I cycled from Bangkok, it was the first time I relied on the world to help me through," he said. "I went through 25 different countries, including Iran, and everyone was sending me messages saying 'Don't cross the border, they've just burned down the British embassy' and I'm thinking 'Maybe this is a stupid idea'.

"But up until that point I'd trusted people right across the journey who had helped me, and I decided that I needed to do that again.

Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364987)
Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364987)

"The very first person I met [in Iran] was a man who asked me where I was from, and I'm there thinking 'Don't say the UK'. He looked at me and said 'You are not my brother' and then walked off, and I was thinking 'Oh my God, maybe I should just pedal off and get out of here'. He suddenly reappeared with something in his hand, my heart started racing and he handed me a cup of tea.

"Everywhere I've been, people have taken me in, fed me and helped me through day by day. Maybe it's because I'm more vulnerable being on my own and people feel more inclined to help, but whatever it is, it's beautiful."

When it comes to deciding on the next challenge, Jamie said that he always goes with his gut.

"When I first started doing this I didn't really know where it was going, it just felt right," he said. "There's no logic to wanting to do them, it's more a feeling that I have to do this, and if I don't do it then I'm going to go to my grave really unhappy. When that feeling takes over, I don't have a choice, it's a compulsion."

Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364998)
Jamie McDonald AKA Adventureman (27364998)

However, for his next big adventure, Jamie has something else in mind entirely – fatherhood. "I find it very hard to plan ahead and generally I go where the wind takes me, but right now the focus is on Adventurebabies," he said.

And just like their dad, Jamie and Anna's future offspring are not destined for an ordinary life.

"When I run across country I have a pram which has my sleeping bag, tent etc in, so we're good to go in that respect!" he laughed.

"When we do have children they'll definitely be tagging along. People might think we're mad, but it's just choosing to travel along a different path compared to the rest of the world.

"Yes, it'll be a challenge, and I'm sure there'll be times when we think perhaps we shouldn't be doing this, but if you take roads where not many people have trod it can take you to magical places, and that would just be amazing."

* Tickets to see Jamie McDonald at the college's Ferguson Lecture Theatre on Tuesday (Feb 11) from 6pm to 7pm are £8 for adults and £5.50 for children aged 7 to 18. Visit www.bishopsstortfordcollege.org for more details and to book.


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