Quest 79 One Year Anniversary

Whilst in the Nevada desert about to attempt the Human Powered Speed Championships land-speed record for armpower, I reflect on the year that has gone since we officially launched the Quest 79 project. It’s all about encouraging people to challenge themselves, try something new, and hopefully find their ‘inner gold’ – that is, to discover something new, surprising and positive about themselves.
My personal Quest is to ride 7 continents, 9 rides (one on each continent, and 2 Paralympic Games). It has been a moving and special year to see people taking on their own projects and gathering their stories. Rowan at age 10, began his challenge to climb 79 peaks in 79 weeks and is about two-thirds of the way through already! Mark Pitcher decided to ask 79 people to donate blood, to help support a child in his family with a rare disease requiring blood platelets. When 79 people donate, he will run his first marathon. Groups of children have been taking to their bikes to do 7.9km rides, and Anne cycled 79 miles for her 79 years. The Moray Scouts took on a 79 mile trek to cross Scotland’s Great Glen by mountain bike and kayak. I asked a couple of the younger scouts about what was the hardest bit, and they said “The long hill that we had up on the second day”. When I asked them what was the best bit, they said “It was the long hill as well! Because we didn’t think we could do it and we did. We realised we were stronger than we thought”.
That sums it up to me. Life throws things at us, and sometimes nearly breaks us. But if we discover in advance that we have hidden strengths, through overcoming things we didn’t think we could, it gives us the resilience to deal with life so much better. Look out for the short films that are coming out about some of the Quest79 projects, and watch the trailer at
Meanwhile I am preparing to embark on the next of the Quest79 rides, the ‘The Sacred Way’. It is the fifth of nine rides. Our route will begin high in the Himalaya at 3100m by the source of the River Ganges, and follow the river to its sacred centre in Varanasi. During the journey we are holding a special event, GLOW ON THE GANGES, raising funds towards the £79k target I have pledged to raise for the Spinal Injuries Association. I hope it will be a unique spectacle, as we set alight a flotilla of candles and send them down the river. Each candle will be dedicated to a person, memory, dream or aspiration – special things that you dedicate a candle to. It would be amazing if you could join this journey by sponsoring a candle and offering your support. or follow us on twitter @kdarke or Facebook @karenquest79
THANK YOU! Have a fabulous autumn, and if you are looking for a new challenge, why not consider inventing your own Quest 79 project and tell us about it! Maybe you can help with our fundraising target for the Spinal Injuries Association.
And in case you missed the facebook post, here is a short piece to give you a flavour of the World Human Speed Championships in Nevada…

I’m in the Nevada desert. The burning sun and dusty yawns of the landscape are otherworldly, far removed from the early autumn hues and dipping temperatures of my home in northern Scotland. Each year, the second week of September, a collection of teams come together in this desert town of Battle Mountain, for the World Human Speed Championships.
As you drive the dusty highway into town, a tall sign announces ‘Battle Mountain: Are you tough enough?’, as if the town slogan has been designed especially for this event. There is nothing for miles but dust and desert scenery, but the town this week is packed to the brim, every motel room full. The iconic arches of McDonalds loom like a cathedral tower, an emblem of America. We try hard to find some healthy sustenance, but choice is slim.
I’m with a team of engineering students from the University of Liverpool. They have spent two years designing and building a special bike. It doesn’t look like a bike though, more resemblent of an egg on wheels. I am the female pilot. Each day this week, I will climb into the capsule with the sunrise and the sunset. The lid will go down, and I’ll be taped and sealed in. I will take the pedals in my hands, push hard on the giant gear to get the pod rolling, then have a five mile strip of tar across a stretch of desert to crank the machine up to speed. There is no window in the egg. I’ll have an X-box view of the desert highway, a tiny camera on top of the shell feeding to a screen the size of a mobile phone. The mission? To break the land speed record for an arm-powered vehicle. I am the female rider, Ken Talbot the male rider. Can we do the student work justice and break the current records? We’ll soon find out. Today is ‘test’ day. I’ve only sat in the bike once – last week on a strip of old runway near Manchester. I’m eager to climb in before it gets too hot. Fully sealed in there, oxygen is short and temperatures soar, especially when its 30 plus degrees outside. Previous bike designs have had an air supply. I believe Graham Obree had a snorkel! We have a very cosy snug capsule, head an knuckles just a few mm from the shell. I hope the air supply will last long enough for the 5 mile run. How long it will take isn’t clear. 5 minutes would be fast. 10 minutes would be slow….
As Gladiators might say, ‘”Let the battles begin…”☺ ☺