The Quest for 1%: Debriefing January, 2012

My fellow riskologists,

Coming off of the world’s oldest marathon in November and a hectic month that followed, there wasn’t much to report in December. But I don’t like sitting idle with big goals for long, so action has been swiftly renewed with the new year.

Important lesson: Dreams don’t fulfill themselves! You usually have to put in some work to do them!


Welcome to the 1% Club Update for January, 2012. This is the place where I discuss the strategies I use as I take on the biggest challenges of my life.

If you’re new here, you may want to get familiar with the 1% Club first and read a few previous updates to see how things have progressed over time.

Thanks for being here. I hope you’re able to take some of the lessons I’ve learned and apply them to your own big challenges

A Great Wall + A Great Run = ???

I like running simply for the sake of running. I don’t need any special circumstances to have a good time. The problem is I’m no Pulitzer-worthy writer, so I usually have a hard time telling an interesting story about running around the neighborhood and the big dog that barks at me from behind the fence if I wear my yellow shoes.

The way I make up for this is by going to strange places and running extraordinary races; it makes the writing process easier, and I get to have some pretty fun experiences.

So, in May I’ll be heading to China for a week to run a marathon on the Great Wall. I have little idea about what to expect, but it’s organized by the same group that puts on the Big 5 Marathon, so I know I’ll have a good time and come home with a story.

This is the kind of experience that passes my critical “50 year test.” Whenever I’m faced with competing decisions about what to do in a situation, I ask myself which one I’m more likely to remember in 50 years.

Of course, this is also how I ended up on the wrong side of a military blockade in the Russian wilderness.

There’s still a lot of time between now and May, but I’m glad to have this sorted out early. I’ll start my normal training routine towards the end of March, but I’ll need to get started early on another regimen: stair climbing. The Great Wall has thousands of them! Here’s what the course elevation map looks like:

To date, I’ve completed 3 of 7 worldwide marathons.

A Lesson in Travel Hacking

Trips to places like China are fun, and I’m happy I get to do them, but the cost can be prohibitively expensive for the average traveler. With a little creativity though, airfare can be had cheaply.

For instance, my flight to China in May would cost around $2,000 if I were paying full price for the ticket, but instead the cost is 70,000 American Airlines miles plus $80 in taxes.

It was almost much more though.

I’ve accumulated a lot of miles with American, British Airways, and Delta. When I started researching my options, it looked like my only choice would be to fly with BA or Delta for well over 100,000 miles, and BA would also tack on $700 in fees!

In a last ditch effort for a better award, I made several phone calls to AA, and on the third try I found an agent who helped me find a much better award.

Lesson: Using frequent flyer miles sometimes feels like playing with Monopoly money, but they actually have real world value; don’t waste them! Different airlines will charge wildly different prices for the same trip, so look at all of your options before committing to one. Just ask your agent to place your ticket on a courtesy hold while you shop around.

And if someone tells you “no” when you ask about a specific award, don’t accept that as the final answer. Sometimes the answer really is no, but many times a second or even third call to another agent will pay off.

Total savings on this ticket: Around 40,000 frequent flyer miles and $600 in fees.

AR Readers Answer: Dealing with Setbacks

In our last “official” 1% Club update, I was struggling with a health issue that threatened to ruin my marathon in Greece. This was a big set back, and I wanted to hear about how you’ve dealt with setbacks in your own life.

Some of you answered in the comments section of that update, and some of you also wrote articles about it on your own blogs. Here are all the responses we received:

I love it when you spread these messages to your own audiences, so thanks for participating.

New Reader Challenge: Where’s the Freedom in Your Life?

Risk-taking is a broad topic, and it can touch many aspects of life. This month, I’m starting a new initiative at AR. From now on, we’ll focus on one specific topic for a whole month before moving to another.

This month, the topic is freedom, so I want to know:

In what area of life do you have the most freedom, and how can you get more of it? And what area do you have the least freedom in, and how can you do less of that?

Let your answers help more people by writing an article about this on your own blog (and leaving a link to it in the comments). If you’re not the blogging type, though, feel free to leave your story right here in the comments.

I’ll share everyone’s stories in next month’s update. In the mean time, I hope each day brings you more freedom.

Yours in risk-taking,

Image by: jercraigs