MARK SAILING INTO HISTORY; the Round Ireland Yacht Race Is the Latest Challenge for a 34 Year Old Who, despite Being Blind, Leads a Life That Is Awe Inspiring for All

The Mirror (London, England), June 17, 2010 | Go to article overview

MARK SAILING INTO HISTORY; the Round Ireland Yacht Race Is the Latest Challenge for a 34 Year Old Who, despite Being Blind, Leads a Life That Is Awe Inspiring for All


Byline: Maeve Quigley

When Mark Pollock lost his sight at the age of 22, he felt that his life was basically over.

Just months before, he was a business student at Trinity College, ready to sit his final exams.

Mark had previously lost the sight in his left eye after suffering problems with his retinas from the age of five.

But he was planning a career in the city of London when the retina in his right eye suddenly detached, leaving him completely blind.

It could have been easy for Mark to allow this to destroy his life but he didn't give in.

Since becoming blind he has raced across deserts, travelled to the arctic and his latest challenge is taking part in the Round Ireland Yacht Race this Sunday.

Mark, 34, said: "I was about to sit my finals when I went completely blind and I suppose there's a certain line that people cross.

"They move to a point where they really are in complete despair and out of control.

"I was lucky because I didn't get there but the point I got to was that I was unable to get out of bed.

"I was looking at my life five, ten years down the line simply lying in bed.

"It was pretty depressing doing nothing.

"So I started even just getting out of bed, taking some steps forward "It was one step at a time - even just making it out of the house at that stage was important.

"But then I found the more that I did in my life, the more enjoyable it became.

"And the more I stayed in bed, the worse it was getting. "So it came to that choice - either lie in bed for the rest of my life or get on with living.

"And in actual fact it's easier to get on with living - it's bloody difficult lying in bed all day every day."

Mark was given his degree from Trinity based on the work he had done before.

He said: "I went on to do my masters partly to prove to myself that I deserved to get my degree on merit as I could do it."

And then when he went back to the sport he loved, other adventures started happening.

Mark said: "Rowing was my passion when I was at school and college "After I went blind I got back into rowing but my first adventure race was the Gobi March - six marathons in a week in the Gobi desert.

"The reason I did that was because I met someone from Ireland who had done six marathons in the Sahara and I thought it sounded impossible.

"So that was the challenge - could I go and do it?" It was the first of many challenges for adventurer Mark who has proved that anything is possible.

He said: "The Gobi Desert was a straight challenge but then over the years I have done so many other things.

"Each time you do a race you meet someone else who asks if you fancy doing something in the snow, the mountains, the desert, on the sea.

"And more often than not I would say yes." On Sunday Mark will join his Team Daft colleague Air Corps pilot Mick Liddy, in their bid to make offshore sailing history as the first double-handed crew with one blind member, to compete in the Round Ireland Yacht Race, 1,400km around the island of Ireland.

And actually it was Mark's day job as a consultant and motivational speaker that led to Daft.com getting on board.

Mark said: "I'm a motivational speaker at conferences, leadership events, meetings anything at all.

"I also do consultancy work and I ended up getting Daft to sponsor us for the race was because they were launching in Northern Ireland.

"I helped them with that then pitched the idea for them to sponsor us round Ireland.

"And it helps them to build there brand too. "The race begins on Sunday and we brought the boat back from France a couple of weeks ago. …

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