“I love movement!” The words of Jamie McDonald, a syringomyelia survivor – so rare even Microsoft Word red underlines it – who defeated all odds to run 200 marathons across Canada in -40 conditions to raise charitable donations for the hospitals who treated him as a child. Dressed like a Stag on his wedding eve in his defining green superhero costume, Jamie counts down 3, 2, 1… the stampede of fast moving feet thumps through the marquee interlaced with laughter, “that’s how I feel when I move.”
At the vulnerable age of nine, Jamie and his family feared he would never walk again on the discovery of Jamie’s rare spinal condition, syringomyelia, which often leaves its victims wheelchair bound. Fast forward twenty years and Guinness World Record holder Jamie is about to embark on his next mammoth adventure.
I arrived at Montpellier Gardens – the home of Cheltenham Literature Festival – to the goading of a free Times newspaper and the smell of lavish coffee in the air, attributed to Nespresso’s latest invention. Mention the word literature and your mind is filled with poetic readings from a monotonous middle aged man, but Cheltenham Literature Festival offers a ‘feast of superstar speakers’ that even the worst of society will enjoy.
Jamie’s ‘just wing it’ attitude is infectious, evidenced by the arrival of Gloucester Ruby Player Charlie Sharples who joined the growing queue to bag front row seats in The Hive. The intimacy of one of the smaller on-site venues at the festival was perhaps a metaphor for Jamie’s exuberating kindness.
Glancing across the room reveals a strange hunger for life on people’s faces, coerced by Jamie’s hard-hitting account of starvation, pain and a mental agility most of us could only dream of, and stories of stranger’s kindness that makes you want to run to your nearest blood bank.
Cycling from Bangkok to Gloucester, enduring ‘bum blisters’ after spending twelve days on a static bicycle and a 5,000 mile run across Canada has earnt Jamie accolades world-wide and led to co-founding his Superhero Foundation. This does not content Jamie however, who plays guess-the-clue from handpicked American songs no one my age (26) has ever heard of, in an attempt to reveal his next adventure.
The pink t-shirted volunteers creep to the stage as ‘pop!’ confetti cannons are exploded and colourful paper wisps through the air for Jamie has just revealed he will become the first person to run from the Atlantic to the Pacific coast solo across the United States dressed as his own superhero creation, Adventureman.