Each speaker had 20 slides, shown on a huge cinema screen, with each one displayed for just 20 seconds before it automatically moved onto the next, and in this short time, they told the absolutely packed audience their story. The night was hosted by Dave Cornthwaite, a hilarious and intrepid world-record breaking adventurer in his own right.
There was a real mix of people presenting and different types of adventure that they had experienced - from Mitch Stokes who had travelling the world with his girlfriend and their (when they started) 8 month old baby, and who's now going to cycle around Iceland, to Andy Campbell, an ex-soldier who was paralysed during a climbing accident, and now lives for the adventures he experiences...skydiving, scuba diving, and ski-ing to name a few...and is now going to travel 30,000 miles around the world in his wheelchair to raise money for the Chutkara Initiative. We also heard about phenomenal feats of endurance, from Chris Martin and Julia Immonen who have rowed across the oceans, to many other inspirational people, including Alex Flynn who was the initial reason that I wanted to attend the event. Alex is an amazing man who has been motivating me for the last few months as I follow him on Twitter, and he did so last night. His adventure has been a challenge that he has set himself to run ten million meters (that's over 6,000 miles) to raise £1million to help fund research into finding a cure for Parkinsons - a disease he was diagnosed with in his 30s. Alex is 38% through his ten million meters challenge, and his next adventure is to run & cycle across America in an inconceivable 24 days!!
The event was also a fundraiser for the charity Hope and Homes for Children - I'd not heard of them before, but from the information we were shown last night, they do incredibly important work and you should have a look at the video below which shows just one of their many success stories.
What was even more amazing though, was that the top prize (£600 worth of holiday to Paris...the prize that everyone obviously was after) was won by Alex Flynn! When the number was called, and Alex stood up with his ticket in the air with a soft call of "that's my number" you could tell the audience was all really pleased that such an amazing guy had won...but then he turned around and said to the audience..."I'll auction it". And he did...he auctioned off his prize for £400 to a guy in our row, and that was just the icing on the cake for me. Alex is so dedicated to the cause that in that split second he made the decision to use this good fortune to make some more money for his charity.
Francis and I went for Chinese food after the talks and I seriously felt that I should ebay off my coat (worth nearly £200) and donate the money to Alex. Francis decided that I've raised lots of money for charity, he had actually won the coat, he was gifting it too me, and I should keep it - I'm a little ashamed to say that I'm not as good a person as Alex, and Francis didn't have to twist my arm too hard to convince me ;) I have sponsored Alex though, to assuage my guilt somewhat!
As well as our discussions about the coat, the evening had definitely inspired us, and our conversation for the rest of the night focused on what would you do for an adventure, what could we do together and how could we make that happen....
Today I am just as inspired as I was last night.
I am also ruined for work in the office, and can think of nothing but becoming an intrepid adventurer. To experience something that would truly be life changing, that would challenge me and open my mind to a different way of life would be a wonderful thing to do. I don't know if I am brave enough to ever get past the "what about work" and "what about money" questions, but I sincerely wish I could be.
I have often thought of doing challenges - I have my marathons, and I have long planned to go on a trip to climb Kilimanjaro, and have seriously considered trekking to Everest base camp, but these are short trips that would work around my day to day, office based, life. That, for me, isn't what a real adventure would be about. Maybe completing my first ultra will be my first step on a whole new journey and I will realise that I have the strength of character to really try something completely inspiring...