So for those of you who haven’t yet had the pleasure of meeting him, let me assure you that he doesn’t have the swagger of Usain Bolt or the triceps of Muhammad Ali (sorry Sam) he’s just a humble guy who set a goal and worked very hard to prepare for it. But when he arrives on that finish line in about 18 months time, he’ll have broken more world records than those two sporting-greats combined.
Nor is he from a lineage of explorers, following in the family business. The closest he gets to a family connection is that his surname includes the word 'great'. So what makes someone pack in their job and take on arguably the toughest endurance challenge in the world?
The answer to that one is actually quite straightforward: the cause. He really believes in the great work of Macmillan, after benefitting from it himself.
I guess the more interesting question is how do you go from the state of thinking: I want to raise some serious cash for a cause I believe in to deciding – and undertaking – a trip of 32,000 miles?
When making a change to the daily commute can seem a logistical nightmare for most of us, how do you plan what’s necessary to pass through the waters and borders of dozens of countries, and pack for all their different climates? All within bags you’ll have to carry yourself. When you don’t speak most of the local languages. The idea makes my head hurt.
I met Sam through working at Macmillan. One of the perks of my job, and something that makes up for the enormous pay cut i get compared to my friends in the corporate sector, is that every day I get to hear about the amazing things that people do to raise money for charity.
But this expedition is so far beyond ambitious that it stretched my thoughts about what might be possible, and did literally inspire me to get involved, albeit for a very small proportion of the trip. These grand plans –the climbs up Everest, first air flight, walking on the moon - whether we have any involvement in them or not, are ultimately what raise our collective sense of what we can each achieve if we really put our minds to it. They inspire us.
So for as much as Sam has been very generous in his praise about how well I did to cycle 400km – and don’t get me wrong, it was pretty tough – I’m really grateful his expedition made me think it might be possible, and gave me the opportunity to prove myself. But that was four days in the saddle; to get back on that bike or boat day after day for 18 months takes determination beyond anything I can imagine.
So the planning, determination and bloody hard work that Sam’s put in are all enough to make him remarkable. But, for me, the thing that really sets him apart – and the thing that should inspire us all - is the fact that he looked at that map, registered the proverbial monsters, and thought ‘I can do that’.