The guy in the blue here, surrounded by rugby legends, is a legend in his own right. I met him first in 2008 when he was preparing to race to the South Pole, a challenge which he took on undaunted. There were numerous hurdles between him and success. He had to raise more than €100,000 to make it happen, secure sponsorship, train and successfully navigate in white-out conditions for several weeks.
Mark breezed through the challenge while Olympians crumbled around him. And, as the now-familiar story goes, he did it all blind. Mark Pollock went blind aged 22, but from what I could tell, he seemed to take energy from the challenges it presented, setting off on ultra-marathons, winning two Commonwealth Games rowing medals and casually running for days in ice and snow. Despite his physical disadvantage, he took criticism about his performance on the chin, even when it came from heroes of his chosen area. The below audio is from the interview I did with Mark before his South Pole Race, where adventurer Ranulph Fiennes took issue with Mark’s goal-setting:
After writing about Mark, we sort of clicked, and I ended up helping him with his own communications from the start of 2010. It was an energizing time – he was in the middle of planning a string of new adventures and we began formulating media strategy. Whenever you suggest a challenge to Mark, he runs it through the particle accelerator between his ears to super-size it. Sailing the Round Ireland Yacht Race wasn’t enough, so he had to do it in a high-performance ocean racing yacht, short-handed. He’d already walked on skis to the South Pole, but had yet to try snowboarding, so off he went. Not being able to see was never a hindrance, even if he couldn’t see the views:
Mark suffered further misfortune when he broke his back in a fall in June 2010, leaving him paralysed from the waist down. Being paralysed and blind isn’t enough of a challenge for Mark, apparently, so he’s set himself further goals of bringing game-changing spinal treatment to Ireland for other sufferers, becoming a pioneer in the use of robotic trousers, and plans to kick off further ventures which I’m proud to be advising on. Oh, and he’s pretty convinced that he’ll walk again. So he’s working towards that.
To that end, I’m taking part in the Mark Pollock Cycle on September 15, cycling a 160km loop in Carlow for the Mark Pollock Trust. As Mark so adeptly deals with his own two-wheeled challenge, it seems only fitting to be raising money for his efforts on two wheels. If you have some loose change down the back of the couch which you’d like to put towards fuelling Mark’s aspirations to change the lives of spinal injury sufferers in Ireland, you can SPONSOR ME HERE.