Chasing dreams to achieve six stars and 7,000m: making my own path

“If you want to get to the top, you need to make your own path”

I spent last weekend in Spain with my wonderful family and in particular, my spirited and special six year old niece. When I arrived she pointed out to me a small hill on parkland near her house and said that she had climbed that ‘mountain’ and would take me later to climb it. As we went out later, she marched ahead pointing out the route to me. I asked where the path was and she said ‘if you want to get to the top, you need to make your own path’ which made me smile – what amazing words and insight from a young girl! 

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We all have our aims, our dreams of what we want to achieve and, to do so, we often have to make our own path. In 2020, I am hoping to make a difference to my clients and work colleagues in my wonderful job and, in my spare time, train for and run the Tokyo marathon (achieving my 6 star medal for completing all the major marathons of the world) and climb Peak Lenin in Kyrgyzstan. And, most importantly, spend time with, and be there for, my family and friends. It can sometimes feel overwhelming and I can think that I am trying to do too much but I like to challenge myself and to find my own path. I’ll be raising money for the wonderful charity, Cancer Research, and this is a huge motivator for me, as is the humbling support that I receive from so many people.

My climb of Peak Lenin is now eight months away and my six star marathon in Tokyo is less than 3 months away. I am therefore getting nervous about the amount of training and preparation that I need to do! 

For those who know me well, you’ll be unsurprised to hear that I have created a plan for all the training and preparation, which I have split into several sections – running, walking, climbing and administration. This is helping me to make sure that I capture thoughts as I have them or as people are kind enough to offer their advice. It doesn’t always keep my worries at bay, however!

The running section is relatively easy for me – to plan at least, but unfortunately not to do! I have had marathon training plans for several years now and so I am using my usual plan to train for the Tokyo marathon. But, it is not a usual training time for me as I have an injury. Having had some pain during my training for the Amsterdam marathon, I have been to see a physio and it turns out I have an ‘under active right glute muscle’! To help correct this, I now have to do daily mobility and strengthening exercises, which makes me feel old! But I have ignored the physio’s advice to do these exercises ‘in the office’ as I didn’t think doing random stretches at my desk would endear me to my colleagues! I’m hoping that the pain starts to subside soon and I can enjoy running pain-free.

Walking I enjoy. I love being out in the fresh air with my wonderful husband and other friends who join me. I can happily walk for miles, sharing stories and having fun. The reason for walking in addition to running is that you use different muscles and so I need to train both. I am also going to be using the walks to get used to the kit I will be using on the climb. In particular I have now bought my 70 litre rucksack, which is huge! I am going to be walking with weights in the rucksack to try and build up my strength to be able to carry my own kit on the climb. I need to build up to approx 20kg at altitude which at this stage, seems very daunting. 

The climbing section of my training plan is the hardest for me. I am, as you know, nervous of drops and exposure and climbing usually involves at least one of those, if not both. Over the summer, I spent a wonderful two weekends starting this training, building upon what I had learnt in the winter mountaineering training I had done earlier in the year. Firstly, I spent a weekend in Scotland to learn how to ‘scramble’, which felt at times like hard rock climbing to me! And secondly, I spent an amazing weekend in Chamonix learning more about how to use crampons and how to ice climb in and out of crevasses. 

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I had moments of pure joy and exhilaration on both trips. Confidently scrambling up and down rocks in the glorious Scottish sunshine was an amazing experience, as was having the privilege to walk with my guide across pure white glaciers in Chamonix without being able to see anyone else for miles. There were, however, moments of huge fear too! My second day in Scotland was a more traditional wet and windy day and when I couldn’t see where I was heading due to the mist and when the rocks were so wet that I felt I would slip down into an abyss, my fear returned. In Chamonix, my wonderful guide was encouraging me to climb backwards into a crevasse which meant putting my feet down into the crevasse without seeing where I was going and needing to trust that the rope holding me wouldn’t break. It took several attempts, with my legs shaking and me needing to sit down to get my breath back, but I was determined to do it and was delighted when I did!

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I have more climbing trips planned for the new year and am also going to my local indoor climbing wall which is helping me learn some techniques and importantly build my confidence in abseiling and trusting the ropes!

Finally, my administration is currently involving shopping, something I am very good at! I have purchased my rucksack, my big sleeping bag and ice axes. I am now researching the down jacket and the big winter mountaineering boots I need. I had thought that the winter mountaineering boots I used on my inspirational trip to Mera Peak were as large and warm as you can get but…no! The guide I will be travelling with has told me that they are ‘on the edge of acceptability for this trip’ and as I feel the cold, I should get the even larger version! More walking round my garden with ridiculously large boots will take up time in the spring! I’m also researching less exciting but equally important things like communication devices, insurance and altitude training. 

There’s a lot to do and it can feel overwhelming to try and fit this all in on top of my busy and wonderful job. I am, however, feeling very excited and, as usual, everyone is being so supportive. I am planning to write a series of blogs about the physical and emotional training that I am doing and so will keep you all updated. 

As we head towards the end of another decade, I am reflecting on the adventure challenges I have been privileged to achieve over the last ten years. Ten years ago, I hadn’t even started running and had never been above 2,500m. On 1 January 2010, I would never have believed what I have managed to push my body and mind to achieve over the last few years. We all have marathons to run and mountains to climb, whether literally or metaphorically, and I truly believe that with passion, hard work and a wonderful team around us, we can all achieve much, much more than we are capable of.  Thank you all so much for supporting me to achieve my dreams – I couldn’t do so without you all. Have a wonderful end of the year everyone!

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