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Q&A with Simon Wheatcroft: the blind ultramarathon runner who adapts technology to achieve the impossible

Simon Wheatcroft speakerSimon Wheatcroft lost his sight at seventeen and began a journey of adapting technology to achieve the impossible. Through the aid of a smartphone and the feeling underfoot, he learnt to run solo outdoors and ran his first race just seven months later – a 100 mile ultramarathon. Ben Horne, Head of Online Content at Chartwell, recently caught up with Simon to talk motivation, tech trends and events to look out for. Check out the Q&A with Simon Wheatcroft below.

1) Why does running ultra-distances appeal to you?

When I first began to run I became fascinated by how far can I go. While there is a saying that everyone has a marathon in them, I felt this may be too limiting. What if everyone has more in them, but simply chooses the norm? As such, I was drawn to greater distances to truly find what my limit was on any given day.

2) What keeps you going during the most difficult parts of a race?

I enjoy the difficult moments, perhaps to the point I seek them out. For it is in those moments, where everything from your body to your mind is telling you to stop, that you can explore your limits. Getting back up when you are physically and mentally drained is a great feeling; you carry that on into other pursuits and begin to believe far more is possible.

3) Which tech products are you most excited about to better aid runners?

There is a huge focus around quantifying activity at the minute and there are so many players; I am particularly interested FitBit as they have an interesting range and are highly accessible. The Apple Watch is also intriguing and it was recently announced to have accessibility built in.

I am also interested in systems such as Athos and Wahoo’s new line of heart rate monitors such as the TICKR X. But I worry how the interesting data these products produce can be analysed and utilised to improve performance. As the market grows that is where the real power will be. How can all this data be utilised to enrich our lives?

4) What has been your favourite event so far?

They are all so special to me in many different ways, from my first ever ultra to my recent 260 mile run from Boston to NYC. However, the Boston to NYC run holds a special place in my heart as my eldest son who is 4 came to run the last few miles alongside, and we crossed the finish line in Central Park together.

 5) What do you hope to achieve in 2015?

Competing in a desert race solo is definitely the highlight on my adventure calendar. I have been working with Google on a wearable that can be used to aid navigation to allow me to compete for the first time without a guide. I am also hoping to break a few world records, from the most marathons back to back and the highest marathon in terms of altitude.

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As part of Simon’s Boston to NYC adventure, AirBnB commissioned a film crew to document the day to day journey. It tells the story of the entire 260 miles as well as a few short interviews that took place before he embarked on the adventure. Watch the full clip above!

For more information, or to book Simon Wheatcroft as a keynote speaker for your conference or event, please contact Leo von Bülow-Quirk at leo@chartwellspeakers.com or call 0044 (0) 20 7792 8000.

Innovation speaker and former Clinton Advisor Alec Ross Q&A

Alec Rossone of America’s leading experts on innovation, recently took part in a Q&A conducted by American University’s School of International Service Online, centred around his thoughts on technology, censorship, and the private sector’s role in development.

Here are some highlights:

Increasing security risks facing global citizens:

“A government’s ability to survey its citizens poses a real threat in countries where political dissent is not tolerated and where human rights are not respected. Being connected means having access to the kind of information and functionality it takes to compete and succeed in our technology rich, knowledge-based economy. Unfortunately, this connectedness can also make people more vulnerable to the prying eyes of authoritarian governments.”

The private sector’s role in development:

“I think that development is being increasingly driven by the private sector—not so much by businesses developing socially responsible models of development (it is actually a tiny percentage who have these models in reality), but by government budgets being strained to the max. “

Ineffective Internet censorship efforts:

“It is getting more and more difficult to censor the Internet because of the powerful Internet freedom tools being developed by engineer activists around the world. When I was at the State Department, we probably spent $100 million to support the development of these tools and to train people how to use them effectively and safely. The kind of control freak mentality that censors have is ill suited to today’s world.”

For the full Q&A, click here.

For information on Alec’s speaking availability, please contact Alex Hickman, at alexh@chartwellpartners.co.uk or call +44 (0) 20 7792 8004

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