A politics graduate from Scotland has broken the world record for the fastest cycle around the world, covering 80,000 miles and beating the previous record holder by 81 days.
Mark Beaumont, 25, of Fife, has spent the last six months cycling around the world, collecting donations for five different charities including the Royal Patron Prince William’s Wildlife Trust, Tusk and the homelessness charity Cyrenians.
Mr Beaumont, who has been publicly endorsed by Prince Phillip and congratulated by Alex Salmond, crossed the finishing line at the Arc De Triumph in Paris on 15 February.
In an exclusive interview with The Journal, Beaumont spoke about his cycling circumnavigation of the globe.
He said: “I was still in the Punjab region of north west India when the first attempt [to assassinate Benazir Bhutto] happened which brought about martial law.
“I didn’t really get a true sense of Pakistan; I didn’t really get to meet the people and I didn’t get to engage in conversations because I was under police escort the whole way, which was difficult as the police had almost no understanding of what I was doing.
“To ride 100 miles a day I needed go at my own pace, stop, hydrate, feed and get the correct sleep pattern. But because I was under escort I found that stretch incredibly tough. It was about eight days into Pakistan when I got food poisoning.
“At that point, when you're in a police station overnight and you’ve got really bad food poisoning there’s no option to stop. I just had to get back on the bike and ride another 100 miles with the police escort. When I got to Lahore I had lost about a stone in weight and had to take a couple of days off there to recover.”
But food poisoning was not the only disaster to befall the Scottish cyclist. Mr Beaumont was knocked off his bike in India, Pakistan and Florida, and was also mugged for his camera and phone.
“The hardest situation was when I was mugged and threatened in Louisiana," he said. "That was probably the only time in the whole cycle where the situation was entirely out of my control.
“Iran, out of all of the countries, was the biggest revelation for me. I had - like most people do - this preconception about Iran but the reality is that it is incredibly safe, the infrastructure is ten times better than that of Pakistan or India. I’d have to leave my bicycle to go and pick up supplies and there was never ever a concern. I was far more concerned when I was in the southern states of the US and other parts of the world.
“The welcome I had in Iran was just overwhelming. They give rest and accommodation to travelers for up to three days. I would cycle into any town and just stay at mosques, which were always open."
Beaumont endured floods and other extreme weather conditions in South East Asia, followed by the 3,000km stretch across the Nullarbor Plain in Australia.
“I was doing 160km a day, he said. "Once you're physically fit enough it's actually really easy, and your legs can do it. The tough bit is the conditioning to sit on the bike for long, long periods of time. You know, the saddle sores, wrist pain, back pain, neck pain, that kind of thing.
“The saddle sores were actually the worst in Australia. I had 1200 miles in 12 days - monsoon conditions and very heavy rain in South-East Asia. So I landed in Perth and just because I was soaked the whole time I had aggravated some of those tender parts. Going through the outback in Australia not able to clean every day, and sleeping in tents for long periods and not able to wash my dirty lycras obviously aggravates those pains.
“So that was actually one of the hardest parts. It wasn’t specifically aches and pains to do with the legs because they were absolutely used to what they were doing. It was the saddle sores and the numbing of holding the handle bars and that kind of thing. And there’s nothing you can do, you just have to keep going.
“Actually finishing, just keeping in mind my physical and mental exhaustion at that point, the excitement and the sense of achievement was more to do with the fact of being reunited with friends and family and the incredible reception I had in Paris.
“There were 40 or 50 people there and then the press probably made it up to about 70 so the reception was incredible. After 195 days entirely on my own it was just amazing for those first few days to be back and to be finished and to spend time with friends and family. That was the initial sense of achievement.
“It's been incredible. The main outcome is my impression of the people who I’ve met around the world - the generosity of strangers and the friendship despite all the challenges I’ve had and the general warmth and friendship from all parts of the world.”
A four-part BBC documentary series on Beaumont's journey is scheduled to be broadcast on BBC2 in April.