It's 43 degrees celcius in the middle of the day in the burning and inhospitable Libyan desert with no shade in sight.
A young woman lies in the sand, desperately dehydrated, exhausted beyond measure physically and emotionally. Broken and in tears, tears she cant afford to lose. She is illegally here in this military barred zone on a 250km expedition to cross this incredibly beautiful but brutal desert, an unsupported expedition where each only has enough for 2 litres of water per day (thats all they can carry on their backs).
The man in her life has just deserted her after yelling at her because she wouldn’t or couldnt help him with the photography for the book they are hoping to publish, leaving her after a 5 year long relationship. He just disappeared over the dunes leaving her frightened, with a broken heart and wondering if either would make it out alive.
That was the turning point in my life, my most desperate and lowest moment. A moment where I knew I would have to pull myself together or die.
I had up until this moment spent 5 years travelling the globe by bicycle, on foot and by canoe with this man, having incredible and often extremely arduous and dangerous adventures. But from the moment he disappeared over the dunes something broke inside and I knew I would have to make some drastic changes, but first I had to get through. I did I conquered myself, my broken heart and mind and then set about rebuilding myself from the ground up, my broken spirit and body. I went on alone to run 70,000km and running in races and expeditions from the Sahara to the Himalayas and beyond. There were many obstacles, set backs, failures, injuries but even more confidence building, enlightening, horizon expanding adventures, in incredible locations and with amazing people.
Twenty years have passed and each of these journeys I undertook represents a lesson learned, a new insight, a new experience, the highest of highs and lowest of lows and through coaching and writing and speaking I love to share these stories and empower people to achieve that which they never thought possible.
Things I have learnt while running 70,000km
The ability to get back up when you are knocked down, to overcome failures and to see them as just steps on the long road to success, to achievement. Obstacles will come in every shape imaginable as you stretch yourself beyond your comfort zone it’s how you deal with these obstacles, your attitude to them, how you can find a way around them that counts from broken backs, to severe asthma, to financial obstacles the road has been a bumpy one but its the ability to just keep going and trying and searching constantly for a way around it, that has helped me get there.
2. RELENTLESS FORWARD MOTION
Ultra marathon running isn’t about speed it’s about stubbornly putting one foot in front of the other “just one more step” has become my mantra. Being able to break seemingly impossible goals, distances or projects into achievable bite size pieces and never ever giving in or giving up.
3. THE KEY TO SUCCESS LIES WITHIN YOUR OWN MIND
Your mind is the most powerful tool you will ever possess within it lies the ability to achieve the extraordinary. Even if you think you are just a very ordinary person who lacks talent. Determination is more important than talent. You may have to work harder or longer or fight and struggle more but a person with determination can overcome so many perceived limitations. But the mind is also your worst enemy that can sabotage you when you least expect it. Learning to develop strategies and mental skills to harness your potential and to achieve your goals, to achieve great things.
4. STRENGTH COMES FROM STRUGGLE.
The more you have to fight for something the more the achievement will teach you and the more it will mean to you. Its a physical law that operates also in the world of business, in your personal and sporting lives, when you lift weights for example you are straining against a weight with your strength, this causes your muscles damage but that damage is then repaired by your body and more than that its made stronger so that you can lift even more in time and that principle is the same in life.
5. LEADERSHIP, PROJECT MANAGEMENT AND TEAM BUILDING
Leading expeditions and projects often under extreme conditions, time constraints and budget constraints has helped me to understand what it takes to succeed and these management principles can be applied across all areas to help businesses or teams succeed in their goals.
6. WOMEN CAN DO ANYTHING
The old adage that women can do anything needs to reiterated in our society. Having worked in male dominated industries and sports my entire life I am passionate about empowering women to step outside the constraints imposed or perceived to achieve whatever it is they want to. In utramarathon running for example despite the obvious disparities in muscle strength or speed we often win the long races or are at least equal to our male counterparts because it’s about hanging in there, pain management, stubbornness, resilience and persistence and endurance something we have in spades.
7. RISK MANAGEMENT VS RISK AVERSION
Being risk aware but not risk averse is the way to success. Risk management is essential, planning, training, preparing, mitigating potential problems etc but avoiding risk means you will never fulfil your potential or achieve great things.
8. IT’S OK TO CRY
Its alright to cry, to breakdown, to doubt yourself, to feel fear when you are pushing your limits. When you step outside your comfort zone and go for it you will be stripped bare, your true self, your true nature and character will be exposed and you will learn just who you are, you will never know how strong you are until strong is your only option. There is hardly a project I do where I don’t doubt myself, feel fear or even terror, hardly a race where I don’t cry but the essential thing to understand is that if you just carry on through it slowly, if you must but moving forward then it will pass.
I never know when I sign up for a big scary race or expedition just what it will entail and just how I will prepare I just pull myself up by my own boot strings and keep learning, keep training, keep believing deep within I can,keep planning until I know what to do or until I fail trying and failure is not a crime lack of effort is. Failing is just a stepping stone to success. No great success comes without failures, setbacks and problems. Metaphorically speaking if you cant run walk, if you cant walk, crawl but never give in and always always, no matter what others say, back yourself, be humble, learn, grow, develop but never give in.