Helen Skelton is a children's television presenter. She is pretty and pint-sized, with an infectious laugh. I imagine she is made of sunbeams and has a tiny unicorn as a pet. She is so lovely in fact, when I hang up the phone my cheeks hurt from smiling so hard listening to her. On first impressions, you wouldn't pin her as, say, one of the first women to have finished the 78-mile Namibian (desert) Ultramarathon or as someone who has solo-kayaked the Amazon in its entirety, setting a couple world records in the process. You probably wouldn't imagine she'd cycled to the South Pole, either. But, at 31, Helen has done all those things. And she’d wager you can too. Heed her words (and #BeMoreHelen)
1. Fitness doesn’t have to come naturally
'I'm not a runner at all — at. all. I have to work at it. I'm not fast. All my friends run better and faster than me. Don't over think it. It's so easy to let yourself be talked out of it. Make a list, go through it one by one, and do it. Don't let people scare you out of it.'
2. You don’t have to be a pro
'I'm a children's television presenter, I'm not an adventurer. I wanted to make stuff exciting for kids. People talk about role models, feminist role models… I want little girls to know that it's okay to be afraid, and [it's okay to] take on a challenge.'
3. Ignore the Purists…
'Yes, you need training, you need kit. But really, it's all relative. It's not about distance or time, it's about mind over matter. Just give it a go! We should be applauding people for trying.'
4. …and the haters
'When I got to the Ultramarathon in Namibia, there were, like, 25 people, and only three of us were women. I found out that some of the organisers had a bet going on when I'd pull out— not whether or not I would finish, but when I would quit. And that was the best motivation ever, as a girl it makes you stubborn. I started out wanting to prove something to them, but it ended up being about proving something to myself.'
5. Build a strategy and take it one step at a time
'Thinking about the enormity of [a challenge] is too intimidating. When I was doing the [2010-mile solo kayak] Amazon, after day six. I folded the map so I could only see the next hundred miles. Every day, I coloured in the 100 miles I'd just done and folded the map again. I never thought past the next few hours, or the next leg. I knew I could do 16 miles. So every 16 miles, I reset my GPS. I did it over and over again until I got to the 100 miles I knew I had to do that day. It's the same with marathons, I do it in 5 mile chunks. Do 5 miles, and then I'll reassess.'
6. Visualise the high
'It's about positivity. Talking about how hard it is is not going to make it easier. You need to sort of coax yourself into it. If I start to get low, I think 'What comes after a low? A high'. To go uphill, you have to go downhill.'
7. Keep it in perspective
Every time I get scared I think, 'You've dealt with worse than this'. People deal with stuff all the time. People lose someone close to them, they have their hearts broken— heartbreak can by physically painful. I feel like this prepares you for life. Like, if I can cope with that, I can cope with this.'
Helen Skelton is a Karrimor running ambassador and ran the 2014 London Marathon in 4 hours 30 minutes. Follow her on Twitter @HelenSkelton
Karrimor Running is available in stores nationwide and online at www.karrimor.com