The Man Cycling 1 Million Vertical Metres in a Year

Jack Thompson’s latest challenge will see him ride the height of Everest 113 times this year, all in the name of mental health awareness

Feature type Interview

Read time 10 mins

Published Oct 21, 2022

Author Chris Hunt

Chris Hunt BASE Editor and Bristol-based adventure writer with a penchant for travel by bike, interesting coastlines and adventures that end in the pub.

Jack Thompson is no stranger to a challenge: in 2019 he cycled coast to coast across the Iberian Peninsula (1200km) in just 56 hours, in 2020 he broke the world record for the most kilometres ridden in 7 days (3505km) and in 2021 he rode all 21 stages of the Tour de France in 10 days. Now, he’s on his way to riding 1 million vertical metres in a year: the equivalent of climbing Everest 113 times!

To complete the 1 million, Jack aims to complete one Everest (climbing the same hill repeatedly until reaching 8,849m) a week plus an additional 2,500m of climbing every non-Everest day. All this, he’ll do in the name of mental health awareness, with a target of raising 1 million euros for three global Mental Health awareness programs along the way. On October 22nd he’ll be in London to take on his 42nd Everest of the year, completing 180 hill repeats in the north of the city!

Ahead of his London challenge, I caught up with Jack to hear more about what it takes to climb 1 million metres and to peek into the brain of a man so hell-bent on pushing the possibilities of ultra-endurance challenges by bike.

So how did this challenge come about and how does it fit into mental health?

I had this idea back in 2021 that I wanted to Everest in all 26 municipalities of Portugal and create a six month tourism piece in the process. Unfortunately, the plan fell through. By then though, I was pretty locked in on the idea of completing multiple Everests and so did some maths. I worked out that 52 Everests would give me 460,000m and then rounded up…to 1 million!

I’ve suffered from depression and mental health disorders my whole life and now being in the fortunate position to ride a bike full time, I made it my mission to do it for a larger cause. Cycling has helped me so much and so I want to give back and help those who suffer. The idea of raising €1 for every meter climbed seemed like a good but very ambitious goal and so I set my sights on trying to achieve it.

What is it about elevation that is so significant in cycling – why measure this challenge in metres climbed rather than distance travelled?

We always measure everything in distance, yet we forget the significance of elevation. The part of these challenges that I enjoy is in looking to do something that hasn’t been done before and that pushes the envelope of what’s possible, both in an attempt to push myself and grow as an athlete, but to inspire others. I’ve always loved climbing and so thought I’d spend a whole year doing it!

 

 

 

 

I’m transported to another dimension of reality. I become creative, my thought process becomes clear and I inspire myself

What does the climbing mean to you personally?

Climbing for me is a form of meditation. Things happen slowly, time stops and I have the opportunity to soak up what’s actually happening around me. The people, the animals, the vegetation, the tarmac. I love it. When I pop some music on and combine that with climbing, I’m transported to another dimension of reality. I become creative, my thought process becomes clear and I inspire myself to push harder and farther.

How does the challenge fit into the rest of the year? Presumably it’s wiping out pretty much anything else in terms of cycling?

This challenge has consumed my entire year. It’s a huge sacrifice to make, but one that I’m loving. I’ve learnt so much about myself, what makes me happy, what frustrates me and various tools and tricks that I’ll use all throughout my life, not just while on the bike. In 2023, I want to talk with others and share the thought process and patterns that I’ve been able to develop.

Climbing up and down the same hills can get pretty repetitive, what are you doing to keep things fresh?

100% although I am a bit of a sucker for routine! I’m obsessive compulsive and so the repetition actually works quite nicely for me. The hot summer months were incredibly tough and so I needed to make some changes to where I was riding, just in order to hide from the sun. I’ve spent some time Everesting on the gravel which was also incredibly valuable to the mind and keeping things fresh.

How is your body reacting to the challenge so far and what are you doing to preserve it?

Touch wood, my body is really good. I haven’t been sick, I haven’t been injured and I’m generally in really good spirits. Until I get hungry!

I think sometimes people think it’s all about the riding and this year, the elevation, BUT, theres a whole lot that goes on behind the scenes that people don’t see. Monitoring my sleep, monitoring my nutrition, stretching daily, mobility daily, visits to the doctors for blood tests etc. This really is a team effort, without those that support me, it wouldn’t be possible.

And you’re looking to get as many people physically involved as possible – what’s the thinking there?

Yeah, like I say, I want to inspire people and want my story to be heard. The more people that get involved, the bigger the story becomes and the more people that are positively impacted. Fundraising is hard, especially as a one-man band, cycling 30+ hours a week. Having the support of others is huge and if we can raise more funds to help others, then I consider my job as an athlete a success. I genuinely want to make a difference and it takes a team to do that.

How can people follow along and get involved themselves?

Jump across and follow the adventure on instagram (@jackultracyclist) or make a donation at jackultracyclist.com – I hope to ride with you guys somewhere, someday soon.

On Saturday October 22nd, VIA Atelier will be celebrating Jack’s challenge with a free event and an evening of drinks. He is also inviting anyone who wants to, to join his Everest attempt before hand. On Saturday 22 October at 5.30, Jack will set-off to complete more than 180 repeats of Hillway rd for a total distance of 190kms. 

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