Unbroken by blindness in 1998, Mark Pollock went on to compete in ultra-endurance races in the coldest and hottest places in the world.
When the opportunity presented itself for him to compete in the ultimate adventure, the first race to the South Pole in 100 years, he knew this epic challenge was for him.
In preparation for the South Pole Race Mark learnt a lot about Shackleton, Scott and Amundsen, the polar explorers who carved those first trails into the ice in Antarctica. And, as they did so, they endured torturous conditions and put their lives on the line.
As Mark discovered more about those early explorers, he became interested in what drove them to go in the first place and what allowed them to survive. It couldn’t have been about money, recognition or status alone. They are all so easily granted and easily taken away. Their drive had to come from somewhere else, somewhere deep within.
Norwegian explorer, Fridtjof Nansen, whose name and face were on Mark’s skis that took him to the South Pole, wrote about this:
“It is within us all, it is our mysterious longing to accomplish something, to fill life with something more than a daily journey from home to the office and from the office, home again. It is our ever present longing to surmount difficulties and dangers, to see that which is hidden, to seek the places lying away from the beaten track; it is the call of the unknown, the longing for the land beyond, the divine power deeply rooted within the soul of man; it is this spirit which drove the first hunters to new places and the incentive for perhaps our greatest deeds – the force of human thought which spreads its wings and flies where freedom knows no bounds.”
For Mark, the mysterious longing to accomplish something was about re-establishing his identity as a competitor again. Pursuing success and risking failure was where he felt normal and putting the demons of blindness behind him with every step towards the Pole offered him a long-lasting sense of contentment.
Perhaps Nansen articulates what we must try to find as we explore our own frontiers when he says, ‘…it is within us all…’ Whatever the challenge, the motivation to keep going must come from somewhere deep inside us. External motivators are always temporary. The answer to the question of why we do what we do is an internal one, often held privately, but one that if answered honestly will be the one that gets us there.