As I start 2023, I do so with hope, excitement and gratitude in my heart.
2022, from an adventure perspective, was challenging. Having gone ten years without any real injuries, my body clearly decided that I needed to rest! A skiing accident meant that my preparations for the iconic Boston marathon had to be significantly curtailed. A later injury then meant that I couldn’t run my planned ultra marathon and, in fact, couldn’t run for 8 weeks.
On days when I’m running late at night on the treadmill in my garage staring at a door, or days when I’m battling through wet and windy conditions, I sometimes question why I continue to push myself through my running. Those eight weeks when I couldn’t run reminded me just how much I love it.
Despite the injuries, I worked hard to get myself ready for the Boston marathon and had an incredible experience there.
I also pushed forward with my mountaineering, spending some wonderful time in beautiful Snowdonia, Scotland and the Alps, with patient and thoughtful guides who are helping me build my confidence, learn new skills and come to terms with the tragedy that occurred on my mountain expedition in 2021.
Reach for the moon, even if you miss you’ll land among the stars
And so, the adventure of 2023 begins. I am incredibly excited about the adventure opportunities that I have this year. But why am I writing about this? And how is it relevant to our every day lives? The pandemic period brought home to me how important it is for me to have a goal, a plan, something I’m dreaming of doing. I think most of us are like that. At some points in our lives, that goal is simply to get through a challenging day with a smile. But when we can dream, I think we should dream to do things that feel almost out of reach. I know I have learnt the most about myself when I have pushed myself towards something that I didn’t know if I could achieve. I don’t always achieve my goal but I get much further than if I’d dreamed of nothing at all.
The only impossible journey is the one you never begin
My first adventure of 2023 is the Tokyo marathon in March. I feel incredibly blessed to be heading to such a beautiful and fascinating country. I am also very excited about the opportunity to run for my six star medal. This is the medal that a runner who has been privileged enough to run the six major marathons of the world receives. Just over 8,000 people globally have been awarded this medal, only 2,400 women and only 770 from the UK.
So many people have kindly asked me about my ‘special medal’ and it has been a long time coming! If you had told me even 15 years ago, that I’d be aiming for this, I would have looked at you very oddly! I didn’t enjoy doing sporting activities. I certainly didn’t run! I remember watching my wonderful Mum running the London marathon at the age of 50 and being so very proud of her but knowing I would never be able to do the same.
My six star journey started in 2010 when I decided to run to keep me physically and mentally fit to help me cope with a career that I absolutely love but one which is busy and can be stressful at times. In 2011, the first leg of the six star journey was in London where I ran my first marathon. The final leg of the six star journey has taken almost four years, from an early morning in July 2019 when I, and several friends, got up at 2am so that we could log on and try and get places for the Tokyo marathon (where the first come, first served charity application system opened at 10am Japanese time!). I was so grateful that we all managed to get our places and would never have thought that it would be almost four years later that we would finally run the race! But, everything looks to be covid secure, the marathon is open to overseas runners for the first time since 2019 and I feel so privileged to be going.
When I think about crossing the start line, running the race in front of the Japanese supporters, for whom marathon running is a key national sport, and (hopefully) crossing the finish line, I get quite emotional. I am usually crying when I cross the finish line of any marathon and I suspect this will be no different!
The six star journey has taken me through the start and finish lines of 14 marathons and two ultra marathons so far. I’ve visited amazing places, had some incredible experiences and have learnt so much about myself. I always say that you see the best of the human spirit when you run or watch a marathon. I started my marathon journey running my first marathon in 5 hrs 45 mins. I was delighted and proud to finish, having had a very challenging run. A month later I was diagnosed with severe anaemia and had to have a blood transfusion. Looking back, I have no idea how I got round the course, other than by sheer determination.
Through the next 10 years, I have pushed myself to firstly break the five hour barrier, which I did on a cool, overcast day in London in 2015 with such excitement, then to break the 4 hr 30 barrier, which I did on an incredibly hot day in Chicago in 2017 and then to break the 4 hr barrier which I did in a socially distanced marathon at Dorney Lake in 2021. I’ve learnt about how to train, how to fuel and how to get stronger. I’ve also learnt that by pushing yourself, you can achieve so much more than you ever believe you are capable of.
Most importantly, I’ve learnt how fundamental having the right support around me is. My husband, friends and family have supported me and believed in me. They’ve listened to my training plans, haven’t complained when I’ve had to fit things in around my runs and have been there in person or in spirit on every run, lifting me up when I’ve needed it and sharing my tears of joy at the end. Family and friends are the bedrock of all that we do and I feel incredibly grateful to be surrounded by so many wonderful people.
The journey to Tokyo 2023 has been an absolute joy (although at mile 16 of every marathon, I can guarantee you I wasn’t thinking that!). I really can’t wait for the race!
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
My second adventure of 2023 will be a mountain expedition for the autumn and this will be my main focus the marathon in March! As many of you know, my last mountain expedition was challenging, with a tragic end. There isn’t a week that goes by when I don’t think about it. The experience taught me so much, about expeditions themselves but most importantly that those that I love are the part of my life that matters most and, if I want to be in the high mountains, I must train and learn, to be as safe as I can be. And I do want to be in the high mountains – I simply love it there. The beauty is indescribable and challenging myself beyond what I think is possible for me is something that motivates me and, I hope, makes me a better person.
To get ready for my mountain expedition, in 2022 I learnt more skills, pushed myself further and had an amazing time in doing so. I never thought I’d enjoy rock climbing but I do! I also never thought I’d be able to abseil down tall (to me!) cliffs but I can and I enjoy it! I’ve eaten pizza (my favourite food) at 4,500m in the highest mountain hut in Europe, the aptly named Margherita Hutte! There are, however, still moments of sheer terror. Crossing a crevasse which required me to make a little jump (although it felt like an Olympic long jump distance to me!) took me a good twenty minutes and a lot of coaxing by a wonderful guide. But I’m getting better, my confidence is growing and I can’t wait to be back.
The past is your lesson, the present is your gift, the future is your motivation
So I’m looking forward to 2023 with hope, excitement and gratitude. I know I need to put in a lot of hard work, physically and mentally, to be ready for the marathon and for the mountains and I’ll give it my all.
The pandemic period and the sad situations that we see around us every day tell me that we need to live our dreams when we can. We all have different dreams, all of which matter to us and all of which are special. We must learn from the past to enjoy the present. We must enjoy the special times we have with those that we love, telling them just how much they mean to us. But we must also look to the future, motivated by our dreams.