Interview: Alex from Channel 4's Hunted.
Channel 4's hit reality series Hunted comes to a dramatic climax next week and the country are routing for one man to go all the way and win the £100,000 prize fund - Alex.
Here, he tells us all about his experience on the show and don't worry, there are no spoilers...
Why did you want to take part in Hunted?
Throughout my childhood, from around the ages of nine to sixteen, I didn’t have the happiest of experiences. I experienced bullying on a constant basis during this period due to two issues: weight and for having a form of autism called Asperger’s Syndrome. There was never a period of time during my education where I was happy in any way shape or form. I was continuous ostracised by my peers, my ‘circle of friends’ was incredibly small and this had a knock-on effect on my confidence, building relationships and my trust in people. In addition, having been diagnosed with Asperger’s, child-rearing ‘professionals’ pretty much told my parents that I would always struggle in adult life, that I would never get into a mainstream school and that I wouldn’t amount to much in the future. Having been brought down for a large portion of my young life, I’ve always had a negative opinion of myself, had always seen myself as a failure and every time I received any form of positive feedback or compliment, I would usually go out of my way to twist these things into a negative or dismiss the comments entirely on the grounds that I always believed these people were trying to weaken my defences because they wanted to utilise my good nature to their advantage, as this had happened on numerous occasions. So my primary motivation for taking part in Hunted was to prove to those who wrote me off from the beginning or thought that I was less than nothing and did their best to make me believe this; that I am capable of doing something beyond their expectations and that I was capable of achieving something. But more importantly, I wanted to prove to myself that I do have worth, I do have value and that I won't allow myself to be defined by others or by my condition for the rest of my life.
What special skills or attributes made you think you’d succeed in this?
Being a keen runner, mainly competing in ten kilometre and half-marathons and having completed a one-hundred kilometre ultra-marathon in under twenty-six and a half hours, I knew that physically I was capable enough to survive and mentally, once I set my mind to something, I am adamant that I will achieve my goal; irrespective of whether anyone thinks I can complete a task.
What did you think the experience would be like making the programme, and how did the reality match up to your expectations?
You simply cannot prepare for how demanding making the programme really is. We didn’t really go into the programme with any expectations other than we knew what we had to do in order to avoid being hunted. From the previous series, we got the impression that sleep was going to be limited, the process was always going to be both physically and mentally demanding and uncertainty as to what each day was going to bring was going to be a constant throughout. Despite all this, we didn’t realise just how much we could enjoy our time on the run either.
Did you pick up any tips from having watched the first two series?
The only tips that we picked up from the previous series of the programme that we implemented into our own routine were to not use any form of electronic device to get into contact with anyone, nor were we to use the Royal Mail service. We knew that if we did this, it would’ve been game over for the pair of us. If we did seek contact, it was purely by getting messages hand delivered or walking to our contacts home address.
Did you go into it with loads of detailed plans, or did you just go where fate took you?
Going on the run, we had one plan and that plan was that we had no plan. Every day was a simple case of get up and walk to wherever we felt like going to on that day. We had locations that we wanted to arrive at on a certain day but in-between, we just took every day as it came.
What was the toughest aspect of the whole experience?
Although the experience was mentally demanding and there were a couple moments where I was mentally exhausted by the process, the toughest aspect of the journey was how physically demanding being a fugitive turned out to be. Surviving on minimal sleep, very little to almost no food each day, walking upwards of fifteen miles almost every day in varying weather conditions on varying terrain with heavy bags on your back, your body very seldom forgives you; even to a point where I found breaking into a slight jogging pace to be challenging.
Did you find yourself getting paranoid?
There were days where I felt more paranoid than others. I attempted to approach each day with a neutral mind-set and not be in a constant state of panic, but after a while that becomes difficult to do. With each passing day never knowing if the hunters were close behind, what they looked like, whether members of the public recognised you and gave away your position, so many scenarios could have occurred and eventually that does start to mess with your head.
Did you form bonds with people when you were away? Did you meet people who were a really big help to you?
Along the way, we formed many bonds with people who helped me and my father in a myriad of ways. Some offered us car journeys, others helped in replenishing our stocks of food and water whenever we got low, many helped in giving us directions whenever we didn’t know where we were. Some even took us in for a night and gave us a place to stay temporarily. Very early on, one person, in particular, gave us sleeping bags which turned out to be a huge lifesaver; we possibly couldn’t have survived without them.
Were there any particular high or low points in the whole thing for you?
Throughout our time on the run, there were many high and low points that all culminated in a terrific experience for the pair of us. The vast majority of the high points throughout our time on the run always consisted of receiving assistance from the general public no matter how large or small the contributions were. Low moments always consisted of the terrible weather conditions, times where you believed you made progress only to find yourself in situations that completely set you back. Constantly second guessing yourself and cursing yourself into thinking why you didn’t take advantage of a previous situation, especially when you find yourself in a state of mental burnout which we were in constantly. Small arguments that fester in your head and threatened to ruin your time on the run, however, irrespective of those incidences, the high points always overshadowed the low points.
What would you say you learned from this experience?
Before I started this experience, I’ve always felt like I was limited as to what I could and couldn’t do. However, throughout my time on the run, I ended up pushing myself out of my comfort zone and doing things that I would never have imagined I was capable of doing. From that, I learned that despite my condition, I’m not defined by this label and that when I can go above and beyond that glass ceiling, I know that I am capable of anything that I apply myself to.