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Mark Beaumont: the man who cycled the world

About 750 people crowded into the Albert Halls on Friday evening for Mark Beaumont's talk. Stirling was the first of the Scottish venues for his UK tour and he certainly got a terrific reception. The recent BBC TV series The man who cycled the Americas combined with his strong online presence, blogging, tweets and facebook, meant that it was completely sold out, with long queues for the book signings.

He is, of course, the guy who knocked 81 days off the official Guinness World Record for circumnavigation by bike in 2008. And in telling the story of his trip through the Americas, he not only covered the length of the Rockies and Andes, but also climbed McKinley/Denali and Aconcagua, the summits of North and South America. In addition, he carried all his own kit, including video cameras and sound kit, and self-filmed. He spoke about both trips, illustrated with stills and video clips, for 3 hours, with enthusiasm, energy and honesty. Most impressive of all, he spoke afresh, not from notes or a script.

Here he is signing books and engaging with his public: the queue after his talk ended at 10.30 would have taken another hour to clear, but he still made time to talk to some youngsters about his bike before he even started the signings:

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We may live in an era of the cult of celebrity, but at 27 this young man has a wise head on young shoulders, and seemed unfazed by all the attention. I'm guessing that the reason he seems so grounded has to do with his mother Una, to whom he pays charming tribute (in his book as well as in his talks). She was clearly not only key to his support team, but she also home-educated Mark with his two sisters Heather and Hannah, until he went to Dundee High School. On his first trip, she also wrote his blog and parts of his book, which I've just started to read. I've alway thought that early years play an enormous role in building self-belief.

I met Una before the talk, when I went to buy Mark's book and also to donate two of our guidebooks. I knew that Mark had met our author Harry Kikstra. Harry has not only climbed Aconcagua, Denali and Everest (!), he has also written guidebooks for us, and he too is cycling the Americas from Prudhoe Bay, Alaska to Ushuaia, Argentina. Unlike Mark, who cycled alone and under pressure, Harry is taking his time along with his lovely partner Ivana, in a sort of protracted pre-wedding "honeymoon". In this photo from Harry's website, taken in Guatemala, Harry's the guy in the middle:

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Now it was at Nido de Condores (about 18,000ft on Aconcagua) back in 2003 that I had mentally redesigned the format of our guidebooks to suit high altitude, and later commissioned Harry to write three of our Rucksack Pocket Summits. So I took both Aconcagua and Denali along as a small tribute to give to Mark. I was delighted to find that the resourceful Una had long since researched what would be the best guidebook to help Mark on his Aconcagua climb, and sent him Harry's book to take along!

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