Around the World in 174 Days

Record-Breaking Athlete James Bowthorpe Tells Us About His Adventures Across Land and Sea

In September 2009 James Bowthorpe broke the world record for cycling around the world, circumnavigating the globe in 174 days, covering 18,000 miles and crossing 20 countries. He called this mission GlobeCycle, and by the mid-way point of the journey he had amassed thousands of fans, Lance Armstrong among them. Since then, the Londoner has undertaken similarly challenging missions, including rowing the Thames in a boat made from found materials, modeling for men’s style zine The Rig Out, and starring in a short film, featured here. Next, he will tackle New York’s Hudson River. 

When you set out on GlobeCycle, were you aiming to break the world record?

The world record was just a big box to climb on so I could shout about a research charity I volunteer for called What’s Driving Parkinson’s. Despite homing in on what might be causing the disease, they’re not properly funded. I found this frustrating and set about thinking of the most difficult thing I could do to raise money and awareness for the exciting work they do. 

What was the most exhilarating part of the journey?

Besides finishing, probably the day I realized I could actually do this insane thing. That’s a powerful and thrilling thought for anyone. Riding at dawn in New Zealand, beside the Pacific Ocean with a storm rolling in, was also pretty good.

And the most terrifying?

Being alone and vulnerable to people who didn’t have my best wishes at heart. That’s a horrible state to be in, but it only happened once; everyone else on the planet is lovely!

This year you also collected discarded materials from around London to build a boat, which you rowed from the source of the Thames all the way to London. What inspired you to do this?

It was a way of exploring what’s possible with limited means; I’m inspired by people who do astonishing things with considerable constraints. The Thames is a big part of my life here in London, but it’s something that we take for granted most of the time. 

The photographer Antony Crook documented the venture. Is it a different experience when you have someone with you?

Very much so. When I mentioned the idea to Antony he was immediately interested and excited; working with someone that “gets it” is great. The fact that he produces such amazing work doesn’t hurt either, and having someone follow me as I went made the experience that much more fun.

And that enterprise was a precursor to a similar mission you're undertaking in the US, the Hudson River Project?

Yes, I’ll be building some form of small boat from NYC’s waste, taking it to the source of the Hudson in the Adirondacks and paddling back to the city, 315 miles away. It’ll take place next autumn, and some of the ideas I’m thinking about are centered around our perception of wilderness, connecting how we think about cities and these far away mountains through the conduit of the river that connects them and has formed both.

Go to James’s site to find out more: www.jamesbowthorpe.com.


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