Life-changing adventures: Mark Allen on how sport can transform you

Last week I focussed on gravel racing and how doing something different can have huge benefits with your normal triathlon or cycling training.

And in change of format this week on ‘Mondays With Mark Allen’ I caught up with Michael Marckx, who dreamed up The Belgian Waffle Ride (BWR) events across the United States.

This is the ultimate series that really sparked the beginning of gravel racing. It’s an epic endurance ride through terrain and landscape that you would likely never see on your own.

The Quadrupel Crown of Gravel events (California, North Carolina, Utah and Kansas) are open to all, incredibly supportive for all riders and all ages and in the spirit of the one-day Spring Monuments in Europe.

I chatted to Michael about how finding adventure can help people maybe find a different part of themselves.

Ultimately it shows us that sport can be something that teaches us about life and helps us live a better life – not only just from our physical health but all those lessons that are learnt and all those transformations that can take place, especially out there in nature.


Keep looking where you’re heading

Watch the video in full to find out more, but here’s how Mark explained the philosophy:

“It’s about looking where you want to end up and using bike riding to grow skills in other areas and your life in general

“Young people – or those people grappling with a crossroads – just keep looking where you want to go.

“[When I was younger] they would teach us in bike racing to look where you want to crash. Don’t look at the fire hydrant, but look at the grassy knoll. That metaphor of visualising where you want to end up works in all aspects of life.

“Don’t look behind you, don’t look at the jeopardy – keep looking down the line, where you’re heading.


Small steps add up to big changes

“And if you’ve never tried a gravel race – you are missing out on adventure.

“Adventure is firstly what the trail avails to you, in terms of where they take you. Some of the trails we use in the BWR, most people never end up there. They’re pretty remote, there’s no coverage. There’s not much out there with you.

“But there’s also the adventure of being in that moment, in that state of flow. We’re not thinking about ‘oh I’m going to be late’ or all the other things we often worry about. Those things disappear.

“And when you’re in that moment, that state of flow with gravel, you’re forced to look at every line and every rock and figure out ways to get through the next 100 yards, let alone the next 100 miles.

“And each one of these challenges in front of you is enriching, enlivening, entertaining – and plenty of other ‘e’ words!

“The first few times you venture out on the gravel on your road bike – or a bike – it’s easy to slip, it’s easy to get a pinch flat, it’s easy to mess up.

“But over time you gain a certain sense of standing and stability within that environment and then it becomes second nature.

“So then it’s about layering on the next challenge. It might be climbing, you’ve got to stay seated when you’re in the dirt. That keeps happening and all of these things add up so that a year or so later you’re a completely different person.”

Mark Allen
Written by
Mark Allen
Mark Allen has to be in any conversation about the greatest triathlete of all time. A six-time IRONMAN World Champion, he won every other title that mattered in the sport and dominated like few others
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