The BMC and Ben

Ben, quiet and thoughtful, sits back in his chair and prepares to be delighted. The computer screen lights up and Kilian Jornet bursts into action, running and jumping, wheeling and spinning. Subtitles express Kilian’s love of running, showing a passion right to his core. As he explores his motives for running, he leaves the final question hanging:


‘What is it we’re looking for? To be alive…?’


The screen darkens and Ben turns to me with a warm smile, eyes sparkling with glee and fire. ‘Wow!’


Watch the trailer and read on...


The film’s message, Ben explained, was to illustrate Kilian ran not for competition results or fame, but for a personal, intrinsic emotion. Such is his love of running, linked so closely to his very existence, that he runs ‘to feel alive.’


Ben and I, amongst ten other keen individuals, were on an MIA training course (Mountaineering Instructor Award) at Plas y Brenin. The many pearls of wisdom Ben passed me have been rolling around my head since the course. 


Ben’s love of people - particularly our motives, thoughts and dynamics - helped me to understand what makes me so passionate about my sports. Ben strikes me as an ‘office’ person but really belonging outside, above the mountains and beneath a bright sky. The unique characters so popular in the outdoors (such as Kilian) seem to be his real interests. He was fascinating to chat to, with rich experiences from all different types of people.


Whilst on the MIA course I attended an interview for a new position at the British Mountaineering Council (BMC). The Online Communications Co-ordinator would be involved in the BMC website: creating news reports, articles, and updating social media pages. I was honoured to be invited and the more I thought about the permanent, 9-5 position, the more I could see myself moving to Manchester, working hard and enjoying full-time employment. I had heard snippets of strong competition but gave it my best shot.


Several tense days later and I reasoned I was in a ‘win-win’ position. If I was offered the BMC job I would take it, because it was a proper career in a subject I am very interested in, I would have a regular income and I would be moving to a new place.


If my application was unsuccessful I could capitalise on my new Rope Access qualification and work towards my MIA assessment. I could continue to climb almost all the time, devoting myself to the things I enjoy, as well as develop my writing - without having to do too many #hashtags. As Caff has quoted, more than three hashtags means you’re #shitinbed.


An email from the BMC came through on Tuesday afternoon: I was unsuccessful. Although very disappointed, I’ve learnt a great deal from the experience, and I wish the successful applicant all the best. I’ll be working on my application should another opportunity arise, and in the meantime trying to develop myself as much as possible.


After pausing for thought I remembered what Ben said during our MIA course. He spoke of people’s passion, their yearning for sport and the mountains - almost a devotion to performance - without desire for fame or fortune. In essence, what makes them ‘feel alive.’


I’m sure he was just being kind but Ben said he saw this - and Kilian’s comments - in me. I realise I do have a deep-rooted desire to be in the mountains, above the sea, or on Main Cliff. And this is part of who I am now. This is how I feel alive.


Thanks to Ben, the BMC, Plas y Brenin and my fellow course mates: Mike, Michael, Andrew, Angus, Brian, Marcus, Andy, Sasha, Colin and Matt.

Tom LivingstoneComment