Friday, 14 May 2010

Antarctic Explorer from 'The Last Great Challenge' Visits our School!

Last night was very exciting as Justin Miles (pictured above) came to speak at our school about his latest Antarctic challenge.  He spoke to the school children during the day and after asking some well-intentioned questions about Father Christmas (er, no, that's the NORTH Pole) they came away shiny-eyed, with eyes open to new possibilities.  They were suitably impressed by the sheer volume of chocolate he will have to consume each day (a couple of pounds, lucky chap) and some of them at least came to grips with the arduousness of the task.

In the evening, he spoke to members of the community.  He really conveyed his passion and excitement that he feels about physical challenges and helping a wider community by setting an example and getting people motivated.

He aims to earn his place in history by completing the ill-fated Terra Nova expedition that Captain Scott started.  Since Scott’s expedition, nobody has managed to walk from the coast of Antarctica to the South Pole and back. Justin will be covering 2,200km on foot without support or re-supply. The walk will be the longest unsupported polar trek in history.

His talk covered how his dream began as a young boy in Bishopsteignton, his grandfather told him, "Don't ever aspire to be average"; how brain injuries sustained in a car accident were instrumental in turning his childhood dream into a reality, and details of the task ahead and his preparation.

I was just amazed that someone could be so single-minded, determined and goal-focused on an extraordinary goal.  He's undoubtedly physically fit, but how do you summon up the stamina to trek in the Antarctic for 77 days? A member of the audience asked him just that.  Well, his answer was direct and honest - he knows he can do it and he's 100% focused on it.  I was expecting an answer where he uses CBT / yoga / religion, but he just believes in his own determination to do it.   I certainly don't have that in me (well, obviously).  His talk was inspiring and made me think long and hard about what my own current goals are...and shouldn't they be just that little bit bigger?

This is his website   

The expedition is hoping to help The British Heart Foundation by collaborating with them on a community fitness campaign, The Great Heart Challenge

I have a feeling that you're going to be hearing a lot more about him, particularly from October onwards when he sets out on his trek.  I'm certainly going to be following his story.


lolb said...

Great post Katie!

I find the quote "Don't ever aspire to be average" a double edged sword. I agree that we should all push to do our best and strive, but on one level it implies that we are not OK if, indeed, we do turn out to be average. Alain De Botton discusses this point in many of his essays. The self help culture of our time indicative in books like "The Secret"or Anthony Robbins style books such as " 7 days to wealth, happiness and Fame" peddle the notion that if our lives are anything short of miraculous it's our fault and that we've failed. "You can be anyone you want to be" is a mantra of this age. One wonders if perceived failure, a reality for many, will lead to depression and self loathing.

I'm not suggesting that we shouldn't dream that bit bigger or refine our goals, just that we are already OK as we are, whether that be a quiet gentle life or an 'extraordinary' one. There has to be a bigger drive pushing this chap than just "the belief that I can do it" , is it the perceived admiration/respect from his grandfather or the fear of being average that motivates him? Just wondering, not knocking the chap ;-) I find what he does incredible and evidence that man can overcome. I'm just fascinated in what is really driving him, there will be many layers to it. Food for thought.

Grazing Kate said...

You're such a bright spark, Lol! That was the one thing I didn't explore further in my post...I felt ambivalent about the phrase 'Don't ever aspire to be average'. I really wanted to pick up on it during the lecture, but felt that it would be a real 'negative vibe' and didn't want to be the person who put a downer on the whole evening.

However it's all N and I discussed over dinner that evening. What is average? And actually what is wrong with being average? After all, 'average' is what most people are, by its very definition. We are in a celebrity obsessed culture where the majority of school kids want to be 'famous', singled out, admired by all and better than average. And when that doesn't happen, which it can't, then what? Millions of despondent people who feel they've 'under-achieved'?

I agree, the Anthony Robbins of this world (and perhaps, by extension, the Justin Miles too)for all their motivational talks, are not reaching out to the deeper needs of people for quiet self-fulfillment and the ability to be happy in your own skin.

To give him his due, I think Justin was focusing on the fact that for several years of his life, he wasn't reaching his own potential and felt like he wasn't living up to his late grandfather's advice. He wants to motivate people to get out there and get going. Being aspirational always has its dangers, but if you don't take risks, where does that leave you in life? So perhaps, it's all about living up to your own potential, not coasting or letting yourself go. Daring to be great (ha, just call me Ms Robbins!, or as you say 'dreaming a bit bigger or refining our goals.'

Justin has to play the media game, as people in the spotlight have to do these days, in order to get funding and make their project viable, but there was a certain element in his talk that made me think that he was also a celebrity wannabe. Perhaps the name-dropping (the Queen of Jordan, Prince Harry, Muse, Billie Myers) was just to show how some high profile names were on his side, but I had a slight feeling that he would like his name to be ranked alongside those figures.

Anyway, I'd like to point out, these musings are not at all sour grapes for being average myself (ha!), and I'm only slightly jealous of Justin's huge amounts of energy and drive.

By the way, his book is being published soon and guess what it's going to be called.....?

lolb said...

Damn, I did it again!!!!! Must stop spelling your name Katie!! Katy katy katy katy katy katy katy. There, hope it's got through to my thick head once and for all xo

Anonymous said...

Hi Kate - My name is Jamie Tonkin and I just came accross your site after googling Last Great Challenge. Just to say I am a wine merchant in Truro Old Chapel Cellars - based in the former Laymont & Shaw premises. I met Justin a few weeks ago and he is a really inspiring character. The upshot of this meeting is that I am now importing a range of wines that I label for the Last Great Challenge, there is also a beer to follow soon! Monies raised (£1.50 per bottle on the wine) goes to support Last Great Challenge. It can be bought online at or from my wine shop in Truro - it's a great way to support the cause!
Jamie Tonkin - Old Chapel Cellars

Grazing Kate said...

Hi Jamie - sounds interesting - any free samples in the offing, and I'll be more than happy to review them for you!

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