We’re finalists at the Inspiration Awards 2017

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We have some exciting news! Our very own co-founder, Meredith Adams, is a finalist in the Standard Life Inspiration Awards for her work on MAD Challenges.

The Inspiration Awards recognise teams and individuals for their contribution to local communities and workplaces across the globe. Nominees are put forward by their colleagues who they have inspired through their actions, and a panel decides on the winner of each category over the coming months.

Meredith is a finalist in the volunteering category, which is awarded to an individual or team of people who’ve been inspirational by volunteering with charities or community groups, where the donation of their time and skills has had a meaningful impact for the charity or group and the work it does.
At MAD Challenges we believe in taking action to create a sustainable future. To us, sustainability means putting people first and working to create a thriving society that doesn’t compromise the ability of the environment to support us. Our Inspiration Award nomination reflects the work we do in creating innovative ways for people to engage with the concept of sustainability and we’re delighted to have been shortlisted as a finalist.


She will be going along to the ceremony at the Mansfield Traquair in Edinburgh on the 14th September, where the winners of each category will be announced, so watch this space!
Until then, you can keep up to date with MAD Challenge’s work 


 and sign up for our next event, MAD Seat, 


As MAD Challenges gears up for a new partnership with Flows to the Future, we share what we leant at their fantastic new touring exhibition.

Besides preserving human bodies for thousands of years and puzzling scientists with ancient murder mysteries involving gruesome and ritualistic deaths, what have peat bogs ever done for us? Turns out, quite a lot! Which is lucky for us here in Scotland, as we have the largest expanse of blanket bog in the world up in Caithness and Sutherland!

So few people realise just how much we depend on bogs, which is why we were excited to be invited along to learn more at the Flows to the Future Touring Exhibition launch at the Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh last Wednesday.

Peat bogs provide water that is clean enough to drink, support some of the best salmon fishing in Scotland and – perhaps most importantly – ensure the quality of our whisky. When it rains they help prevent flooding, and when the sun shines they provide a steady release of water to our rivers – resources much appreciated by fishermen and kayakers alike. Hikers enjoy the wildspace they create and the diversity of wildlife they support – some of which is of international significance – and land owners are happy for the revenues that this wildlife brings, through deer stalking, grouse shooting and angling.

However, one of the greatest services that peat bogs provide isn’t from all of these direct benefits to the people, wildlife and the economy surrounding them; it’s from the huge amounts of carbon they store. Peat bogs provide a globally significant climate regulating service – if all of the carbon stored in Scotland’s peat bogs was emitted as carbon dioxide, it would amount to more than 100 times greater than Scotland’s annual emissions.

Protecting and restoring peatlands is an issue of national and global significance to ensure these important national resources are preserved. This is why the Peatlands Partnership, with the RSPB as its lead partner, have set out to deliver the impressive and ambitious 5 year project, Flows to the Future. This project aims to significantly increase the level of conservation management and promotional activities currently being undertaken in the Flow Country – the name given to the vast peatlands of Caithness and Sutherland.

As part of the local community engagement work that the RSPB are doing for Flows to the Future, we are thrilled to announce that we will be working with a summer school group in July to help them develop their very own MAD Challenge! We are particularly pleased with this partnership as the RSPB’s community engagement work complements MAD Challenges nicely in helping people connect to their local landscape.

This will also mark the launch of our MAD Communities pack – guidance for community groups and other organisations to develop and deliver local MAD Challenges.

MAD Seat 2017 | 28th – 29th July


We are thrilled to share that signups for MAD Seat 2017 are live! Now in its 2nd year, this time the event is bigger and bolder. Dare to join us?

Sign up here

The concept behind MAD Seat is simple…

It’s a straightforward question that requires physical endurance, mental stamina and a whole lot of ups and downs to answer. Starting 8pm on Friday night, our MAD Seat challengers will walk through dusk, dawn and a whole new day, with a new champion recognised at our base camp on Saturday at 8pm.

As always, we have three different challenges to pick from, so whatever your fitness level, there’s something for you. Pick from the following challenges, grab your friends and get climbing!

MAD Starter

6 Hours

 Join us for the final push starting at 2pm.

Mad Mover

12 Hours

Rise and shine early for an 8am start.

MAD master

24 Hours

Go for the record starting at 8pm the night before.

What’s the record?

Last year the incredible Andrew Rigg managed to conquer the Seat 41 times in 24 hours. This year, however, we’re using a slightly different route, so a new record is waiting to be set… Fancy your chances?

The 2016 group completed 157 ascents in the 24 hours. This massive achievement is the equivalent of climbing from the surface of Earth to the ozone layer and back again!

As MAD Seat returns, we thought it was time to set a new target and push ourselves even further. So, for 2017 we’re aiming for over 500 ascents by the group and to reach our goal, we need all the help we can get…

So, whether you’re a seasoned Edinburgh-goer who has climbed the Seat countless times, you’ve never been near it before, or it brings back memories of your student days and a freshers week adventure to see the sunrise, we want you!

You can sign up by clicking the link above and we look forward to seeing you soon. Fingers crossed for good weather, strong legs and a new record!

This Friday, June 9th, we’ll be launching signups for our next challenge, MAD Seat – a gruelling 24 hours of hiking up and down Arthur’s Seat! As far as we can tell, no one has created an event like this before, so we’re rather excited!

Most people who’ve visited Edinburgh have either climbed the Seat or put it somewhere on their ‘to-do’ list. And it’s easy to see why: its majestic rocky features stand proudly on the skyline, offering up a decent hike and some truly tantalizing views of the city, sea and surrounding landscape. But we’re willing to bet that not so many have wondered what it’d be like to hike up and down for a whole day, just to see how many times they could do it, let alone actually tried it…

Well, we were mad enough to wonder just that and to give it a go! Last year we ran a pilot event just to see what it was like… We’re not going to lie, it was tough; a lot tougher than we expected in fact. But you know what they say – whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger! Okay, maybe that’s not always the best rule to live by, but we certainly felt a whole lot stronger afterwards, both physically and mentally (once we had recovered…). And it was such a great experience having so many supporters bringing coffee, cake and chat that we thought that this event was too good not to share!

So this year we’re making it bigger and better – we want more participants, more supporters, more ascents, and, of course, we want to see someone to set a massive new record!

Signups go live this Friday so be sure to visit our website or Facebook page to secure a place before they’re gone!

One month on, we asked our brilliant MAD Clyde challengers to reflect on their experiences of the event. This is what they had to say…

“Shall we print out a map?”

“Nah, it’ll be fine.”


Sitting in our local coffee shop, pastry in hand and making use of the complimentary Wi-Fi, we were happily oblivious to our upcoming challenge. Ten days earlier we had signed up for MAD Challenges’ MAD Clyde event. Having chosen the middle option – 19 miles in 6 hours – we reasoned that we would be adequately prepared without much training. After all, we weren’t doing the insane MAD Master – 35 miles in 12 hours – we’d be fine.


Or so we thought.


Factoring in the added weight of 6kg and the time-frame you can see why this is called a MAD Challenge. Three miles an hour is a reasonable walking pace but try maintaining it solidly for 6 hours!


“Shall we head home and get some lunch?”


Another strange factor was that we were setting off on a 19-mile walk at 3pm. In order to be able to meet the MAD Masters (those crazy 35-mile-ers) who set off at 9am, we were required to start at what would usually be considered ‘a little late in the day’ for a six hour walk.


Let’s rewind a little, to the day we signed up. Having chosen the MAD Mover option (and blister-free feet and sanity over glory) we next had to create our campaign page. MAD Challenges works with the wonderful Do-Nation, to allow sponsorship in the form of action rather than money – because reducing waste and our impact on the environment is something everyone can contribute to.

We dutifully arrived at the Strathclyde Park start point and met our fellow MAD Movers – ready and raring to go! The lovely organisers had prepared our extra weight, and we were each loaded up with 6kg worth of River Clyde water (this water’s not for drinking!). The sun was out, spirits high, and after a team photo, we were off.


We set a blistering (literally) pace which we hoped to maintain for the rest of the day. The MAD Masters group joined us shortly and having already walked 16 miles, they were beginning to flag but I like to think we brought some renewed enthusiasm to the challenge. And the fact they had already walked almost as far as we were going to be walking gave me a lot of confidence – thanks guys!


I’ll not say much about the next six hours – we walked, we talked, we shared laughter, snacks, music and suncream (and the best flapjack I’ve ever eaten) and saw each other at our best and our worst. We kept each other going and though we may have lost a little River Clyde water along the way, we made it to the finish line.


And damn, that cold beer tasted good.


Imogen Beck & Grant Laird


‘As soon as I heard about MAD Challenges at the 2050 Climate Summit in November 2016 I knew it was for me. Outdoor challenges with friends while getting to raise awareness about sustainability = best combination! It was a cracking day and great to see people engaging with the challenge. I can tell it’s only going to grow from here!’


Gillian Gibson

‘I would absolutely encourage others to participate in future MAD Challenges events. They offer a real challenge and the chance to meet great people who have a genuine interest in environmental issues and how we can work together to combat them’


Duncan Harrison

‘MAD Clyde was an amazing experience. It pushed me to my mental and physical limits but knowing that friends and family had pledged over 700kg of carbon saving for my walk more than made up for it’


Jamie Wylie

Two weeks on from MAD Clyde, we still sit back and feel like pinching ourselves. I mean: events never go this smoothly, it’s just a fact. As organiser, we were resolved to deal with at least one of the thousand worst case scenarios that we had mulled over and over in run up to the event. At the very least, MAD Clyde being an outdoor event in Scotland, we were expecting some grief with the weather. Yet everything about MAD Clyde was absolutely amazing, and even the sun was in attendance all day.

The main reason this event was so great was, of course, down to our dear MAD participants, who braved blisters and fatigue to waddle over that finish line victorious!

Here are a few facts and figures about what was achieved thanks to the strength of determination of the 32 individuals who walked the Clyde walkway this Earth Day:

Thanks again for this great collective effort. We are looking forward to growing and delivering ever MADder events to enable you to challenge yourself in strange new ways!

Photo credit: Hamish Frost Photography (www.hamishfrost.com)



So you’ve signed up for an endurance event. Perhaps you want to test yourself, see how far you can go? Perhaps you’ve lost a bet? Or maybe you just fancy losing a few toenails? Whatever your reason, congrats for even considering it! You’re over halfway there.
Endurance events are incredible. The battle between mind and body is intriguing and you are certain to learn a thing or two about yourself. There are a few things that I’ve learned (usually the hard way) over the years that can really make a difference on the day and will hopefully make even the tough bits (and there will be tough bits) far more enjoyable.
So here are some of my top tips. We’re all different, though, so make sure you do what works best for you.

OK, so…before you start:

Keep it old skool. Your trainers, that is. Make sure you’ve broken them in before the day or you may get some nasty (and painful) surprises.
Tape it up. If you know you often get blisters in the same spot, it can be worth pre-taping your feet with sports tape. This reduces friction with your skin and should prevent most blisters. Prevention is always better than cure.
Get organised. If possible, stash your snacks & water to be easily accessible without having to stop or take your bag off. Having them to hand keeps momentum up and means you’re more likely to eat and drink properly and have sustained energy (which you’ll need!).
Variety is key. When it comes down to snacks, don’t underestimate how much you might need when you’re moving for many hours. It’s best to pack mainly carbs as your body needs the fuel, but I find that after a few hours I really crave salty things, so always pack crisps or salted roasted beans or nuts for later. Whatever you want to eat, a variety is good. It’s also worth bringing a special treat for when things get really tough.
Layers layer layers. Scotland is beautiful but its weather is unpredictable. You can also get pretty warm when moving quickly and then cool down when your body is tired. So it’s best to pack lots of thin layers that you can flex depending on your needs, rather than thicker layers. Oh, and a decent waterproof is a must!

During the event

Stop, drop and…er, sort! Stop and sort any hot spots or potential blisters straight away. It’s all too easy to ignore and just keep going, but blisters can get bad very quickly and are often the main cause for people dropping out of endurance events. So a 5 minute stop to get them sorted is better than having to pull out.
Break it down. I find it helpful to break up the distance or time into smaller targets and mentally tick them off. Just watch that the targets aren’t too small or you’ll be checking your watch every 2 minutes!
Remember the why. Remember clearly why you’re doing it and keep focussed on that end goal when things get tough (which they will!). Imagine it a bit like a rollercoaster – you’ll be moving forward the whole time and towards the finish (and cold beer!) but there will be both ups and downs along the way. 
Keep moving. Stop if you need to of course, but don’t stop for too long as it can get harder and harder to start again.


Snack attack. I would recommend to eat and drink regularly to keep energy levels up and have something to look forward to (so make sure you have tasty snacks!). I usually eat a bite of something every 20-30 mins and try to take a drink more frequently than that.


And most importantly…

Enjoy! Savour every moment, even when it gets really hard and everything aches. Know that during the really tough bits you’ll get through it, just keep going, you can do it! And if all else fails, just keep thinking about that cold beer…


Hazel is an adventurer, endurance athlete and 2050 Climate Group Operational Member.
Follow her on Twitter, Instagram and her website.
Check out her upcoming adventure Due North: Alaska www.duenorthalaska.com, where her and Luke Robertson are aiming to be the first people to travel the full length of Alaska by human power. Starting 11th May 2017

My love for the outdoors is a long founded one. Growing up in the Scottish countryside, I always enjoyed exploring mysurroundings and learning why the landscape looks the way it does, lumps, bumps and dips included. This played a big part in my decision to study Geography at university where I gained a different understanding of our landscape; learning the wonders it contains and also the very real and very big threats it faces.


This got me thinking. There must be a way to combine my love of the environment and my desire to take sustainable action into something that made a real difference to our world. The potential was there but how to make people care about sustainability in a fun way that also got them outside?

This is where MAD Challenges Co-Founder, Dave Bell, and DoNation came in.

Fast forward to August last year and I found myself saying yes to taking part my friend Dave’s mad idea of walking up anddown Arthur’s Seat repeatedly for 12 hours. Instead of collecting financial sponsorship for my efforts, everyone participating in the event used DoNation – an online platform that enables people to be sponsored in sustainable behaviour change rather than money. You can read more about how DoNation works in Dave’s recent blog (link).

As I walked up Arthur’s Seat for the 18th time in a row (yes that’s right), was it mad? Yes. Was it insanely hard and did I feel my legs would fall off? Yes. But did it give me a chance to talk about sustainability with my friends and result in them making a huge number of positive behaviour changes from cycling to work to eating less dairy? Yes!

After the legs had recovered, Dave and I got down to business. We thought, why not expand this idea and create multiple events where participants have to do something novel, unusual and a little bit mad whilst also doing something good for the planet? A big dream indeed.

Taking this public, Dave and I were given the opportunity to speak at Scotland’s 2nd Youth Climate Summit last November where we shared our idea with literally hundreds of people. Our experience at the summit was a hugely positive one and we soon assembled a team of committee members. It’s fair to say Dave and I were bowled over at the enthusiasm, creativity and passion people had for our idea!

Over the course of many weekends and cups of tea, we discussed how we could build a recognisable brand that ran a host of endurance adventure events and the concept of MAD Challenges was born. Standing for Move Act Do, the name encapsulated exactly what we were trying to achieve: challenge people physically, encourage sustainable actions and do something to make a difference. We started to formulate our action plan for the year and set ourselves some ambitious goals, the first of these to create a new adventure event.

The result of this was the creation of MAD Clyde – a weighted 35 mile endurance trek along the River Clyde. There are two shorter time and distances that participants can select but the concept remains the same, to challenge yourself wherever your abilities may lie and to collect as many DoNation pledges as possible. MAD Clyde is designed to suit all abilities of adventurer and we’re really excited to see it unfold!

MAD Challenges was a ridiculous idea that turned into a “one-off” event, which turned into a project with big ambitions… It began with a simple question:

“What can I do to get sponsorship that will get peoples’ attention?”

The primer for this was a new organisation I had just been introduced to – Do Nation – that has created a new concept in sponsorship. The idea, in my opinion, is the cat’s pyjamas: people sponsor you by pledging actions, not money.

Why Raise Sponsorship Anyway?

Before I explain, let’s clarify why people raise sponsorship in the first place: for charities, obviously. But the point is that giving money to charities is a great way to help make the world a better place in the ways that you care about. So, what if you value things like good health, avoiding waste, supporting local economies, and preserving your local landscape? Well, it turns out that a lot of the power to improve these things rests with us – you, me, friends, family and colleagues. But how do we make use of this potential…?

One way is to collect sponsorship money to give to a charity so they can run an awareness campaign aimed at influencing our choices and behaviours. This is fine, but seems perhaps a little inefficient and ineffective. With Do Nation, however, the game changes. Instead of asking your friends for money, you simply ask them to pledge to change a habit or two for a couple of months. This could be anything from boiling just the right amount of water in the kettle, to cycling to work, to switching energy supplier – Do Nation provides the list of actions and the explanation for what benefits they bring. People simply choose what makes sense for them! Genius.

The Precursor Event…

So, back to the MAD journey. I’d been challenged to see how many pledges I could raise, and I like a challenge. The solution seemed pretty obvious to me: I needed an event stupid enough that it would grab peoples’ attention.

There was really only one thing I could go for, even though I was a little reluctant: a gruelling 24hr repetitive hike up and down Arthur’s Seat – a 250m high rocky hill in Edinburgh. This was something a group of friends and I came up with back in 2007, did once and never thought we’d do again.

But it turned out to be a surprisingly fun event. Eight people took part and loads more supported, bringing snacks, coffee, a puppy and celebratory beer. The record set was a whopping 42 ascents – the equivalent of hiking up and down a ~5.5km high mountain in 24hrs!

What was the impact of all these ups and downs? Do Nation calculates that the potential CO2 emissions savings from all the pledges collected was nearly 7 tonnes – about as much as the average person in the UK emits each year. And that’s not to mention all the other benefits the pledges bring. Not bad for one little event!

The MAD Seed Was Sewn

A friend of mine (and now MAD Challenges co-founder), Meredith, took part in this first challenge and shares a love of the great outdoors. We got talking a little while after the event and, with the rose-tinted glasses of hindsight, decided that there might be something more to this ridiculous outdoor challenge thing… A whole series of novel endurance events dedicated to Do Nation-style social engagement, perhaps? We’d not heard of anything like it before… So we got planning, recruited a team of volunteers, and, well, I’ll let Meredith tell the rest…