Chasing six stars and 7,000m: through the uncertainty

I usually write a blog at the end of each year, pulling together the lessons I have learnt from my adventures. This year, the blog has been much harder to write. The adventures I had hoped to be writing about – my dream of getting my six star medal having completed my final major marathon of the world in Tokyo in March 2020 and then climbing Peak Lenin in Kyrgyzstan to reach over 7,000m in August 2020 – haven’t happened this year. That isn’t the reason the blog has been hard to write though. I have wondered whether it is appropriate for me to write such a blog in the current situation.

Am I being selfish, or indeed stupid, to be still chasing six stars and 7000m when the world is facing the challenges that it is, when people are suffering and when the end is not yet in sight? I am sure there will be some people who think I am. For me, though, this year has taught me many things and, among them, is that I need to dream, to hope, to be inspired and I need to have a purpose. And so I have written this blog for those who need the same things as me and to thank everyone who has supported me over the last twelve months.

I know I am one of the very lucky ones. My family and friends are all safe and well. I have a job that I love and that fulfils me. I have a house, garden and a wonderful husband who has been the perfect lock down companion. Even with all of that, the year isn’t one I would want to repeat. We haven’t been able to see our family in Spain, including our amazing niece and nephew, for over a year and I miss them. It has been hard to see family and friends worried and unable to enjoy their lives. It has been sad not to see loved ones and enjoy special moments together. And it has been hard to try and inspire a team of new work colleagues remotely.

It has, however, also been a year in which I’ve learnt a huge amount about myself. I think that every one of us has a marathon to run or a mountain to climb. Sometimes, that is an actual fact but, more often, it can be getting though a challenging situation with a smile still on our face and, sometimes, it can be simply getting through a day. The resilience that everyone has shown this year has been incredibly inspiring to me and I know that the lessons that I have learnt this year will help me cope with the challenges that will face me in my adventures in the future. So, what have I learnt?

Always bring your own sunshine

Positivity has always been important to me. In my work, I think it is critical for me to lead my team with positivity. This year has taught me the importance of that in my personal life too. There have been days when that has been hard. The day that the Tokyo marathon was cancelled, the day I should have been heading to the beautiful mountains for my climb and the day our parents, understandably, decided to stay at home for Christmas were ones when I shed some tears. But I’ve also found joy in the small things. An unexpected call with a friend, a joke shared, a kind word from a stranger when I’m out walking have all brought a smile to my face. Choosing to be positive has made a huge difference to me. This will definitely help me when I’m at mile 20 in Tokyo wondering, yet again, why I am choosing to put my body through another marathon or when I’m struggling to breath in sub zero temperatures in the mountains!

If you get a chance, take it. If it changes your life, let it.

I love this quote and always have. This year, it has been even more true. I’ve always believed, and still do, that I must make the most of my life. I’ve always felt that time is running out and there is so much more that I want to achieve. In the summer, when I was due to be in Kyrgyzstan for my climb and my husband was due to be in Spain with our family, we couldn’t do either and it would have been easy to stay at home and work but we took the chance to go abroad to the mountains in France. It felt like such an adventure to leave the confines of our house and the M25! And, goodness me, was it worth it. Hiking up to the top of a mountain and sitting, hand in hand, looking out over the beautiful world below, was a special moment.

In August, I had the opportunity to go to the mountains again with a wonderful mountain guide. We changed location three times, to make sure we were complying with all the local rules, and I ended up cutting the trip short to get back to the UK prior to quarantine rule changes but it was an amazing three days, including my first 4,000m summit in the Alps. Pushing myself and taking chances (safely) has meant that I have been able to achieve so much more than I would ever have thought I was capable of and I hope will allow me to continue to do so.

Good friends are like stars. You don’t always see them but you know they are there

Whilst I haven’t been able to see people as much as I would normally do, video calls, quizzes, cards and whatsapp groups have all helped me hugely to feel connected to my loved ones and I feel even closer to my family and friends coming out of this year despite having seen them less. I feel incredibly blessed to be surrounded by people who care for me, who support me and who inspire me. When I head off on my adventures, I do so knowing that I have this support but also knowing that I must come back safely and wanting to make everyone proud. That feeling has only been strengthened this year and I know will help me feel protected and supported even when I’m away from people.

She wasn’t bored, just restless between adventures

This is probably the most appropriate quote for me this year, sent to me by one of my good friends. I have been restless. I can’t wait to be back living my adventures. I have been determined though to make the most of the time I have had. So, how have I kept a focus, working towards my dream without knowing exactly when it will happen?

Well, those that know me, know I like a plan, so I have a training plan! I’ve walked miles with my large rucksack, filled with ever increasing weights. I’ve run miles, adopting a new marathon training programme which I thought was insane when I received it (running approx 40 miles a week) but which I’m loving. And I’ve continued with my weight training and taken up yoga. And I feel blessed to have achieved a lot. I’m finishing the year having run personal best times for 5km, 10km, half marathon and marathon distances this year. I can now carry 30kg in my rucksack. And I can almost do the basic yoga programme without falling over! I’ve also done a lot of preparation for my adventures, mainly shopping! I now have a very unattractive pair of down trousers which I hope will keep me warm at 7,000m, I have some very fast trainers which I hope will help me across the finish line in Tokyo and I even have an ultra light cutlery set for my camping!

The Tokyo marathon has been rearranged for October 2021 and, before that, my climb has been rearranged for July 2021. I am hopeful that both will go ahead. I have also signed up for a socially distanced marathon with my friends in April 2021.

I look ahead with hope and with the certainty that, at some point soon, I will get to see my family again. I will get to hug my friends. I will get to enjoy meeting my new work colleagues in person. I will get to cross the marathon finish line in Tokyo. I will stand at the top of a stunningly beautiful mountain, 7,000m above a world that has been through so much but has come out stronger than ever. And what amazing times they will be. Roll on 2021!

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