The first time I encountered Mark Pollock was at a party in 2004. He asked my friend to teach him a few salsa moves. I had not actually met him yet but this shaven-headed non-shades-wearing, slickly-dressed blind guy was already impressive.
After the smooth salsa story I found out that he was a Professional Adventurer and Motivational Speaker. He had already rubbed shoulders with the icy adventurer Sir Ranulph Fiennes at a North Pole Marathon, completed six marathons in seven days across China’s Gobi desert, won two medals for rowing, bronze and silver, at the Commonwealth Games and completed the Liffey Descent (which sounds like a breeze compared to the rest of them).
Then I met him. Mark is down to earth, incredibly practical and a funny man. Like many other inspirational people he manages to make you feel at the centre of his attention when you are in his company. I envied his self-employment status and admired how hard he worked to keep the momentum. His blindness almost seemed like a side issue.
He continued to spend roughly half the year training and competing in extreme marathons, kayaking, Ironman competitions, sailing and the other half giving his motivational talks to the management employees of global corporations about pushing the boundaries of one’s own limits.
When I meet up with Mark he always has a story from some of the fantastic people he had met; leaders in business or adventuring. He has a way of relating these stories to my own situation, almost, as if he has always had me in mind. It was his idea that I should start a blog (it took me three years to catch up with his vision).
Without realising it each of these stories were taking root in my subconscious. When finally I took the step to self-employment part of me was scared but another part of me was excited. I borrowed some of Mark’s drive and motivation and it has seen me through the first two and a half years. I am reluctant to give it back.
In 2010 Mark suffered an accident that added paralysis to his blindness. Other people might have withdrawn from life but Mark’s durable attitude forced him to alter his adventurous goals and he has put his paralysis to an amazing use.
When I think about him I do not picture a blind man in a wheelchair because that is putting him into a box stuffed with pity and tissues. I see Mark as a powerful force with a-hundred-foot-tall essence, he is not a man to be pitied, he is a man with a spirit to admire and a passion to emulate.
In October 2014 Irish and Northern Irish audiences have the chance to borrow some of that drive, motivation and inspiration by going to see “Unbreakable – The Mark Pollock Story” directed by the award winning documentary maker Ross Whitaker.
Take the chance, believe me, it is worth it.