How John McGuinness made me jump off the 61st floor of a building
'I wish you would step out from that ledge my friend.' It's the first message that I see when I switch my phone back on after the deed is done. A friend has sent me the lyrics to Third Eye Blind's 'Jumper'. And even though at that point I haven't heard the song, the words, they seem to fit just right. Let's rewind 24 hours though.
The legendary Morecambe Missle - John McGuinness
I'm skulking around the pitlane at the Guia Circuit, which of course means I'm at Macau for the legendary Macau GP. I catch sight of what I'm looking for soon enough. In the motorcycle section of the pitlane, on a piece of paper taped to some plastic sheeting is a sign that has the letters 'Mc' followed by the image of a glass of Guinness. Somewhere behind that plastic sheeting is the Honda TT Legends garage. And within it there is every chance that John McGuinness is readying himself for the big race. As a helpful Honda mechanic tells me though, "Knowing John he's probably napping at the hotel. He'll be back 15 minutes before the race starts." And so, 15 minutes before the race starts I'm skulking around the garage yet again. Friendly Mechanic pops by once more to say, "Oh John's over there. Go on. You know what he looks like." And so I do.
Standing there before me is John McGuinness in the flesh. Twenty time winner at the Isle of Man. And he's puffing away on an inhaler. While the rest of the interview with John is available here, there's one thing that he says to me that stands out. I ask him whether he ever gets afraid. "Yeah, I get afraid all the time," comes the answer. It baffles me a little. Here is one of the world's most revered motorcycle racers, someone who has won one of the most fierce motorcycle races at one of the most dangerous circuits in the world, and he admits to being afraid. "Even when I'm having a good weekend. Just before the start of practice, just before the races. I mean I'm in Macau now and I'm nervous now, really nervous, before the race. But everybody gets nervous, everybody gets scared. I still get scared," he goes on. He speaks of fear like it's acceptable. As though it's no bad thing to be afraid. It is reassuring and inspiring all at once.
That gets me thinking. If John McGuinness, inhaler and all, can admit to being afraid and still manage to get past the fear, there must be something to it. Facing fear, it's an interesting concept and one I've run away from for well, forever. A strange sort of feeling takes over me and I'm determined to try and combat my own fears in some way. And this has to be done quickly, before the feeling passes. It's a happy coincidence, then, that a fellow automag hack says as we're walking back to the hotel that Macau has the world's highest bungee jump. Hmmm. Interesting.
And so I stepped out from that ledge...
24 hours later I'm on the 61st floor at the Macau Tower. Credit cards have been swiped for amounts that will cause me to develop a nervous tic in the future, harnesses have been worn, and I find myself strapped to the railing of the Macau Tower's outdoor deck. There's loud music playing, the wind is billowing about, and almost as a matter of course, there are people being strapped with what are really thick rubber bands around their feet and flung off the side of the building. There's a Russian ahead of me with 'Sochi 2014' written on his face with a marker. He goes to the edge, yells "Dasvidaniya" and with great panache he jumps off the Macau Tower. The Ukrainian girl goes next ? quietly to the edge, floating off it with the grace of a ballerina. Then it's my turn.
Plummeting towards the ground at 180kmph
"Let's do this thing," I say to the camera they thrust in my face, false smile plastered across it. The harness is heavy, walking to the edge is a challenge. And once I'm there, I can see all the way down to the ground. Cars look like ants, people look like dots. 764 feet. 233 metres. That really is a long way down. "Let's really really not do this thing," I think to myself. But, evidently, there's no going back. The instructor counts me down "Five, four, three, two, one." And I'm still standing there. Rooted to the spot. "Five, four, three, two, one." I still haven't jumped. It happens again, and I'm still standing at the edge. "What are you afraid of?" the instructor asks. "I don't know," I say. "You're afraid of the fear itself, which is the fear of nothing, so go." Words of wisdom up top. And so I drop. And there's no way to stop. And it feels like it takes forever this rushing through the air, plummeting towards the ground at 180kmph. There's adrenaline, a feeling of complete loss of control, and a tremendous sense of calm all at once. I see the sky, hear the sound of the world rushing past, and feel the wind. I went quietly. Then the bungee pulls me back up before I finally am lowered to the ground.
What of the fear, then? Oh I know I'll still get afraid all the time. But I'll do things anyway ? the McGuinness way.
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