Do you want more from life than being stuck behind a desk 9 till 5, and living for the weekends only? I want to experience life to the fullest; do something extraordinary with my rather ordinary life, and find something to be excited about every day.
It is probably no surprise that in my late twenties I discovered a real lifeline through endurance sports. Through running and the occasional obstacle race, I have not only been able to satisfy my hunger for adventure and excitement, and find an escape from the daily grind, but I have also developed a resilient mindset and gained more confidence in all areas of my life. Sophie Radcliffe who is one of my favourite motivational speakers and who is also a professional adventurer, and endurance athlete, has summed it up perfectly:-
It is through challenging ourselves that we stretch our limits, break down barriers and realise we can achieve far more than we think.
I agree with Sophie that if you want to grow and grab life by the horns, then you need to challenge yourself more. A ship in a harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for… Yes, the ships at sea face some of the greatest risks; but what are the risks of never getting out of your comfort zone? A ship kept in the harbor may just rust and rot. So which type of person are you? Do you grab life by the horns and ride or tie yourself to the mast?
Perhaps you are driven by the same desires like me, and are ready to ‘grab life by the horns’ instead of sitting on the sidelines, but are not sure where to start. I have recently attended an event in London organised by EtchRock which is a unique event management platform and an inspirational community for people who love to challenge themselves. Not only is it a fantastic place to discover a challenge, but also a place to share your training (as the platform is compatible with leading fitness apps and wearable technology), and connect with other participants. You can sign up for an already existing challenge ranging from fun runs, triathlons, to the world’s toughest ultra marathons, or a virtual challenge which you can complete in your own time from anywhere in the world. However, if you are after something more bespoke, that’s not a problem, either, because through EtchRock, you can create your very own challenge – if you fancy it, why don’t you join me on the challenge I have created ‘Run 2017 kms in 2017‘.
The previously mentioned event was to celebrate with EtchRock the launching of the EtchRock Elites community – a group of aspiring individuals from all around the world who are redefining what is humanly possible, through taking on the world’s toughest challenges. EtchRock gives these individuals a platform to amplify their messages so that they can inspire many more people to take on a challenge of their own and ultimately dare to dream what they themselves can achieve.
I really enjoyed the evening speaking to many adventure-loving people, and felt very inspired by finding out more about EtchRock from the co-founders (Jason King and Laura Humphries) and listening to the stories of three members of EtchRock Elites.
The Ultimate Triathlon
The first speaker was Luke Tyburski – as an injured footballer, battling with depression, he found an escape through going on physically demanding adventures. Having completed his first challenge, the Marathon des Sables (nicknamed as the toughest footrace on earth in the Sahara Desert), he knew he had been bitten by the adventure bug for good, leading him to complete many other challenges. He embarked on the biggest challenge of his life in November 2015, which tested him both physically and mentally to his limits and beyond. He propelled himself from Morocco to Monaco as he covered 2,000 kms in 12 days, swimming, cycling and running. Luke is also a real food cook and motivational speaker, sharing his endeavours to inspire others to get out of their comfort zones as much as possible.
Into the Maelstrom – The Wild Swimming Brothers
Next, Calum Hudson told us about the many challenges he and his two brothers have thrown themselves into over the past couple of years, taking them from the mountain springs in the Himalayas to the crater lakes of Guatemala, as well as the dense jungles of Indonesia, and many more. In their latest expedition, they undertook their biggest challenge to date, when they swam across the two biggest whirlpools in the world, in the Norwegian Sea, above the Arctic Circle. Fortunately, they managed to avoid any encounters with the resident Killer Whales and human sized jellyfish, so they are now ready for their next challenge, which is to swim across the world’s 7 biggest maelstroms. Through their endeavours, Calum and his brothers also promote conservation of natural habitats and a closer relationship with the natural world.
Ben Nevis on One Leg
The final person to share his story was Michael Robbert Brans who refused to let disability define him. He climbed Ben Nevis on one leg, after having faced cancer three times in his 35 years, and having to have 3 amputations on his right leg as a result. Michael was trying to find sports that were suitable for him for a long time; eventually, he started doing adaptive CrossFit and muddy obstacle races hopping, crawling, and jumping on one leg – photos of him went viral and helped raise awareness for cancer research and rehabilitation for cancer survivors. Michael has been selected to feature in the Ninja Warrior show on Dutch television which is a huge compliment that his efforts have been recognised and a further opportunity to spread his message that with hard work, there are no limits!
There are many things I listed on my bucket list God knows how long ago, such as signing up for a coastal ultra with Endurance Life, doing The 3 Peaks Challenge and walking the full length of the El Camino de Santiago de Compostela Pilgrimage. However, I always keep finding myself stumbling against a number of limiting beliefs, and trying to come up with rational arguments to convince myself to let go of these ‘mad ideas’. Hearing those extraordinary stories and seeing the enthusiasm on the faces of the people I chatted to helped me see something in myself. By living their stories through their eyes, I found the answers to many of my own concerns and now nothing can hold me back. Bring on 2017!!
Finally, let me share some of the limiting beliefs that I have been holding onto until now, and some of the answers I have got that evening; in the hope that this will encourage you to ‘set sail’ as well:-
NO ONE has attempted this before!
In Calum’s words, when embarking on a new challenge, it always helps to apply some ‘logical insanity’. If no one has done it before, it does not mean that it is not doable! It just means that you must do your homework to find a way – this requires for example breaking the task down into smaller, more manageable chunks; evaluating potential safety risks and how to mitigate them (such as getting acquainted with local wildlife and establishing how you could avoid being mistaken for food by them); customising your training for the event by recreating the conditions as closely as possible (for example, Calum only takes ice cold showers or ice baths which helped him get used to swimming in sub-zero temperatures). Needless to say, a positive, can-do attitude is always a must!
I can’t do it on my own – it’s too big a project!
Both Luke and Calum had a support crew with them during their adventures; without the crew holding their backs along the way, it would have been quite impossible to achieve what they did. For example, Luke suffered several painful injuries during his triathlon challenge, even passing out on a couple of occasions, waking up in a hotel room. Fortunately, his medic girlfriend was at hand to patch him up so that he could carry on. Calum and his brothers had some friends accompany them in a boat, making sure they were fed every half an hour and monitoring for early signs of hypothermia (such as mental confusion) by regularly asking them some test questions.
I am scared of getting injured!
Luke who knows a lot about injuries told me that the best way to approach this matter is to ask yourself ‘If I get injured, what is the worst thing that can happen? … Well, it is likely I will need to take some time out to rest and recover, even see a physio, get stitched up, but am I gonna die? Probably not. What am I going to remember in a year’s time? – The painful hamstring pull or the proud feeling of achieving my goal?’
Marina Ranger ran the length of the Netherlands this year (500 km in 5 days) only wearing her pink underwear to raise funds for a breast cancer charity. She said to me that there comes a point where you need to decide what would cost you more: not finishing your challenge due to injury (and having regrets in the back of your mind asking yourself ‘what if I had carried on’), or pushing on and finishing your challenge in any way you can, in spite of an injury.
What does the world care if I do a challenge, or if I don’t?
Emma Manton who is an actress had no idea that when she agreed to join a friend on a short jog, it would start a chain of events that would change her life – as well as the lives of thousands of refugees. Emma signed up to do the London Marathon in 2016 and provided the inspiration for a huge fundraising campaign for the UN refugee agency which even caught the attention of Hollywood superstars and some of British theatre’s most famous writers. In the end, Emma managed to raise a whopping £32,000, earning the Silver Bond highest fundraiser award. Her story is testament that you should never underestimate the difference you can make in other people’s lives by taking on extraordinary challenges in aid of good causes! If you would like to be part of Emma’s vision to help disadvantaged people, you can join her 2017 running challenge by clicking here.
It’s too hard! Perhaps I should try something safer.
If Michael could climb the Ben Nevis and survive obstacle races on one leg, then you have double the advantage with your two feet to do anything you like! If there is a will, there is a way, as the saying goes, and it is all up to you to create the experience you want.
Calum told me that part of his preparations for a challenge is using mental techniques, such as visualisation – imagining himself succeeding and creating really vivid images about it regularly, which helps build his confidence. You will almost certainly hit rock bottom at some point, but actively anticipating that moment and mentally rehearsing your response in advance can give you the edge over people who give up easily. For example, Calum likes to think about his loved ones and cheerful memories when the going gets really tough.
So, after all, the question is not why you should challenge yourself but more like why should you not?!
How will YOU leave your mark?
Thank you Olivia and Ellen at Action PR for making it possible for me to attend the EtchRock Elites launch event, and thank you Laura and Jason for being such wonderful hosts! Luke, Calum, Michael, Emma and Marina – I wish you the best of luck for your next challenges!