Jamie McDonald is a fundraising adventurer. In 2012, he raised tens of thousands of pounds for charity by cycling from Bangkok to his home town of Gloucester. Along the way he was arrested, accidentally cycled through a war zone, was shot at and endured weather conditions ranging from freezing snow to the scorching desert. His journey covered 14,000 miles, 6 time zones and dozens of countries along the way.

Just two days after arriving home from his mammoth journey, Jamie attempted and surpassed the static cycling world record. After more than eleven days he stepped off the bike with a new world record of 268 hours 32 minutes and 44 seconds, beating the old record by over 44 hours.

In February 2014, Jamie completed his most astounding challenge; he became the first person in history to run unsupported across Canada from the Atlantic coast to the Pacific Ocean. Jamie’s journey required 13 pairs of trainers, covered 5,000 miles and raised over $250,000 for sick children in Canada and the UK.

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What I learnt from Jamie in his own words:

“I thought let’s do something that’s really out of my comfort zone, let’s try and give back to the hospitals that helped me out as a kid. I went through a lot as a kid. I had a condition called syringomyelia, so I was sick. Sometimes I couldn’t move my legs, I had immune deficiency, epilepsy, just really, really sick. But, at nine years old I started to move my body and I was really, really lucky, because I could have lost my mobility for life.”

“I’d never even cycled long distances before. I didn’t even try the bike out. I literally just flew to Bangkok. I had no idea what I was doing. I assembled it and got on it for the first time in Bangkok. I was so super excited. I didn’t even take a map. All I had was a compass and I knew I had to go to Cambodia to the west, so I pointed it west, and just went for it.”

“The hardest bit of all, is the emotional turmoil that you have to go through before you actually start. It’s the expectation. Preparation, to me, is just fear. I realise I avoid all planning, all preparation. You’re just better off just being naïve, don’t prepare, don’t plan, and just go out there and do it. You have to be naïve sometimes. When you’re taking on these big expeditions, you can’t plan every day. You don’t know what’s going to happen.”

“Beforehand, you’ve got to accept that you may fail and that’s okay. As long as you’re okay with that, then you can move forwards and then go ahead and attempt it. But the emotional turmoil beforehand is really rough. The truth is, we have no idea what we’re capable of. We have no idea, because most of the time we’re so scared to jump into that initial first part, we’ll never know.”

“At the start of every day, I would get running and there would be no expectation whatsoever, and so every experience that happened in front of me was a massive bonus. Whether I’d find a toilet, or I’d knock on the door of a house and maybe get a bed for the night. It was golden.”

“Pain, was inevitable; I was injured all over. I was one big massive injury. I had really bad, chronic tendonitis in my foot and it was pain beyond belief for almost every single step of the run. Then my back started to bugger up. When my back started to bugger up I thought, ‘now I’m feeling pain in my back, but I’m not feeling pain in my foot, how is this?’ I realised you’re feeling the pain from your brain. It’s totally, totally psychological. The issue isn’t the body, that isn’t where the pain is, it’s totally in the mind. I found, just trying to zone out, to not think and just enjoy whatever is around you, thinking of the people you’ve met, or a lovely memory, anything to switch off. The best runs and the best days, were the ones where you get to the end of the day you actually don’t quite know you had run a marathon, it just happened, because you’ve switched off.”

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“The fund raising was a massive goal of mine, so, to give back is one of the most satisfying things anyone will ever do. That’s how it feels to me.”

“The thing is, when it comes down to children, one sick child can affect an entire family. With old people we can celebrate their life, but when it comes to children, it’s a different ball game. I remember what it was like in hospital. You can’t buy that experience. I look at the kids and I know.”

“Kids are fearless. But, then you look over their shoulder and it’s their parents and their brothers and sisters and you can just see they’re worn. They’re so down. All they want is their kid to be healthy. Hopefully, as long as I’m out there trying, that can hopefully give them some comfort and hope.”

“I have a theory. Every human being you see is chasing a massive cake, which could be, ‘I want a bigger house,’ or ‘I want a nicer car.’ My cake was at the end of the run. I was chasing it and chasing it, I was running my heart out to reach my cake. I eventually get to the end of the run, and guess what? There’s no cake. It doesn’t exist. The cake is not there. What I realised was, I was eating the crumbs along the way. That was the satisfaction and fulfilment. So, whatever dream we have in life, we may as well just enjoy getting there and the satisfaction of that, because we are all formulating more cakes along the way.”

You can read more about the character traits that drive greatness in our book Great Traits. The e-book and paperback versions are available via Amazon or visit your nearest Waterstones to buy in store. To receive new content and podcasts from the Great Traits Project sign up below: