Running For My Life: An Interview with Jordan Wylie MBE
Jordan Wylie MBE is a passionate outdoorsman and mental health champion. Alongside being one of the stars of Channel 4’s BAFTA nominated TV show Hunted, Jordan has an outstanding list of adventures, all in aid of charities close to his heart.
Before he joins us on Tour in May, we caught up with Jordan to talk about risk, his fundraising projects and what draws him to areas of conflict.
Q: We’re so pleased that you’re joining us on Tour in Southampton to talk about your incredible adventures. Can you tell us how you got into adventuring?
A: Thank you for inviting me on Tour, I can't wait to meet everyone. I have loved adventure and the great outdoors since I was a little boy - whether it was climbing trees, making dens, kicking a football or crossing a river...I've always craved that green and blue therapy! I joined the Army at 16, so sport and adventure have been with me most of my adult life. About ten years ago, I started trying to turn my hobby into something more and now I am very privileged to make a career from adventure with purpose around the world.
Q: You’ve completed some incredible challenges; from paddle boarding for 149 days around the British coastline; taking part in the Antarctic Extreme Ice Race; becoming the first person to row solo across the Bab-el-Mandeb Strait between the Horn of Africa and Yemen; to running 15 cross-country marathons in 15 days…the list goes on! How do you choose your journeys and how do you plan for them?
A: To be very honest, I try to do things that will challenge me and most of my adventures have a strong purpose behind them whether that be raising funds for a charity, educating young people or trying to inspire our cadet forces. I love meeting new people, discovering new places and trying new foods, so I always factor these in during the planning stages.
Planning for an adventure is often the most challenging part of the process, whilst the adventure or expedition is actually the easiest and most fun part. Many adventurers and athletes will tell you that the hardest part is getting to the start line due to funding, sponsorship, planning, logistics and equipment, all the elements required to bring a dream to life. That said, if you believe in what you are doing then nothing should ever stop you from pursuing it!
Q: In 2018 you began a project of extreme running and have completed races in Iraq, Somalia and Afghanistan. What draws you to this way of adventuring?
A: I like to run in extreme locations around the world, and have been fortunate to run marathons on all seven continents. I'm not a fast runner, but I love the adventure of running through places very few get to visit. I feel that this comes with a responsibility to share the journey with others. One of my favourite 'extreme running' expeditions was in 2020 when I ran the world's deepest underground marathon 1,000 metres below the North Sea - a new Guinness World Record too!
Q: You paddle-boarded around the UK in 2020. What was it like embarking on this expedition during the pandemic?
A: This was one of the toughest challenges I have ever taken on - not so much physically but mentally - as each day we didn't know if we might be halted by the UK's lockdown rules. I started this expedition with no experience at all of standup paddleboarding on the ocean and I really did learn the hard way through trial and error. I learnt so much about myself, about others and about fundraising on this particular trip, perhaps more than I had ever learnt before.
Q: Your career in the military and life as an adventurer has taken you to areas of conflict. What draws you to these areas, and how do you factor in the risks before and during an expedition?
A: We often perceive dangerous places such as war and conflict zones as places to avoid at all costs. I have always been drawn to these places, and they have played a significant role in my life. I have lost friends in areas of conflict but have also witnessed incredible acts of kindness, love and compassion - often more so than I have ever seen in our own country. To really understand a place, I think you have to go and experience it. The truth is often a long way from what we may perceive it to be through a media lens.
Q: Do you find mental or physical barriers to be the biggest setback during an expedition? What keeps you motivated when difficulties arise?
A: I tend to think about loved ones who are no longer with us, which is perhaps a bit dark and gloomy but it helps me generate a real sense of gratitude towards whatever it is that I am struggling with. I like to remind myself that I'm lucky to be here, to stop moaning and to think to myself: get on with it Wylie!
Q: You’ve written three books in total: 'Citadel: The True Story Of One Man’s War Against The Pirates Of Somalia', 'Running For My Life' and 'The Power Of The Paddle' which was a Sunday Times Bestseller. How did you start writing? Do you find it a helpful way to process your experiences?
Along with the outdoors, writing has really helped my mental health. I love writing down my thoughts and feelings as a means of processing the world around me and understanding what I have been through. I find that it's much easier to express myself through words than to talk to someone about how I'm feeling. One trick another author gave me that I use all the time now is to record my feelings on my phone at the end of each day when on an expedition so that I can go back to them when I start writing to remember exactly what I was feeling each day.
Q: You’re stuck on a desert island - what three things would you take with you to help you survive?
A: My daughter (Evie), my dog (Arlo) and a pop up Cotswolds Outdoors store!
Q: We can’t really avoid asking the classic question – what’s next?
A: I can't really talk about the next project as it's embargoed until later this year, but I have just returned from the high arctic and I also intend to escape Alcatraz by swimming from the notorious Island to the San Francisco mainland for my 40th birthday!
Q: Can you tell us one word that sums up what the outdoors means to you?
Hear Jordan Wylie MBE at the MAST in Southampton on 17th May. To grab your tickets, head to the Kendal Mountain Tour website.