It’s high noon, and I am standing in Spitalfields Square. It’s zero degrees in London today and I can barely feel the rain droplets on my almost frozen nose. I’ve grown to love the London weather: it’s like thinning hair, there’s little you can do about it, might as well embrace it.
Whilst the wind blows on my bald spot, a shiver goes down my spine, not because of an East London draft, but of the thought of someone in their right mind would want to trek to the North Pole. I am meeting a fellow LSE Information Systems graduate, who’s about to do just that.
Chris Eglin graduated from LSE in 1994 and has had an interesting journey since. Interesting is one of the few words that can describe it because his is one certainly not a conventional one if there is such a thing. He may have labelled himself a “wannabe adventurer” but this story goes deeper than thrill seeking. The book cannot be read from the cover.
Chris was a victim of a serious knife attack in 2008 that almost made this story written in the past tense. As many graduates of the LSE, he works in the financial industry. While, on a work assignment in Stuttgart, Germany, walking back to his hotel one night, he was attacked by a drug addict wielding a knife. At the time, Chris had taken 136 flights in 17 months, and was both physically and mentally fragile. Chris had little say, for whether he gave him his money or not the man had intention. Futily, Chris defended himself and managed to throw him to the ground, yet during the scuffle, he was stabbed 4 times, with one jab missing his heart by a couple of inches. His website www.testyourcore.com/northwhat has a detailed account of the story that gives it better justice than this article could, or is purposed for. Chris’ story begins in the aftermath of the incident, his journey to recovery, and his will to pay back for the people who helped him from the brink.
A few months after the attack, in May 2009, he travelled to the Great Wall of China thinking that he was on the way to recovery. Unbeknownst to him, he was in the full throes of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Oblivious to this, from September 2009, he had started commuting to Amsterdam on a weekly basis for approx 1 year and trying to get back to what he thought would be a normal life.
Then PTSD kicked in, and dark days ensued.
As an attempt to get out, Chris thought helping others may help him help himself, and he began doing volunteer work. After a brief encounter with a Scientologist at a Soup Kitchen, the hidden hand of life led him to the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (http://www.sct.org.uk/), a charity that helps people piece their life back together by providing help and assistance to others, and feeling part of a support network. As he physically recovered, volunteer work helped him heal on the inside, and deal with a severe mental trauma. Slowly, Chris began to take it to the next level: Andes to the Amazon, Vietnam to Cambodia, and then “North What?”.
I’ve seen his website and seen his pictures pulling a sled around Victoria Park, his self-declared fortress of solitude and spiritual home. He has also attended a couple of LISA events, but trekking to the North Pole is a game changer, so am not sure what to think when I meet him.
We are sitting at the back of a restaurant in Shoreditch, and we are talking about his training. A keen cyclist Chris is training for the trip by pulling sledges full of a weights or cycling around Richmond park. With an abundance of technology tracking his daily progress such as Runkeeper (www.runkeeper.com), twitter (@touchst0ne) and the ever present iPhone and iPad , the question whether IT does not matter (N.Carr), is challenged, because in this instance, it matters alot. Trekking to the North Pole for 8 days in subzero temperature requires both mental and physical conditioning of the highest measure. Chris has barely enough time to eat and sleep in between running, cycling and gym workouts to be able to track his progress, and having such applications makes it almost seamless. He shows me how he did forty miles today, that I began to sweat myself.
As two IS grads, we eventually drift into discussions about the underlying technology, London, Finance, Startups and the meaning of life, as if we were transported into the Old Bank of England, suited and booted and sampling the ales…..
The story continues, and we move to another cafe near Spitalfields Crypt Trust, where Chris shows me his T-Shirts and posters promoting his journey, and promises to keep LISA posted on his progress, with the next report before he sets off to the coldest place on Earth.
RunKeeper (S1edge) : http://runkeeper.com/user/Eggers
Sponsor Chris on his JustGiving page: