"That's so cool. I wonder if I can do something like that?"
After a few days rest, Jennie Stevens tries to explain why she chose to race 260 miles along the Pennine Way this January.
This post is for all the wonderful fully paid up subscribers to It’s Looking A Bit Black Over Bill’s Mother’s. Everyone else can read the preview below, along with my earlier post on Jennie’s preparations here.
And please support her fundraiser to help three disadvantaged students planning to attend Sheffield University, now very close to her target of £10,800. There’s also a Q & A session with Jennie tomorrow (Friday 2nd), and a raffle with prizes including match day tickets for both Sheffield football teams and a tennis session with Jonny Marray. (From 4:30pm at INOX Dine, Level 5, Students' Union Building, Durham Road).
Many Sheffielders appear to think Jennie Stevens is now one of the city’s most inspirational athletes. My first post about her was a year ago, when on a dark run over Burbage Moor she explained how she enjoyed long treks in hostile environments, often at night, because she liked challenge and adventure.
She later told me that almost 20 years ago, she’d been beaten, raped and left for dead by a group of men while travelling in Mongolia. She was far from home, with little support, and she said she realised she had a choice to make: “To be a victim or a survivor, and I chose to be a survivor. I remember the decision very well.”
She recognises that every attack on a woman is different, and not every woman can make the same choices she made. But she found herself unwilling to let that terrible attack ruin her, as she put it.
“I think that one moment pushed me to become stronger, it lit a defiant spark in me which has not gone out. I don’t take unnecessary risks, but I refuse to let anything or anybody scare me out of the things I want to do and achieve.”
Running over miles of mountains and moorland was the kind of adventure she loved. And so, after several years of racing for increasingly crazy distances, she put herself down for one of the most hostile ultraruns in the world, the Winter Spine Race.
Competitors have to make their way, without support, from Edale in the Peak District to Kirk Yetholm in Scotland, a distance of over 260 miles that must be completed in 168 hours, or seven days, in the depths of winter.
Jennie completed the run on 20th January. I met her two days later, when she’d caught up on her sleep a little. (She managed a total of 14 hours of napping during her six days and nights of struggle on the freezing Pennines).
“In general, it’s a horrific experience,” she told me. “After the first two checkpoints, some of the volunteers said: ‘Are you enjoying it?’ I said, ‘Are you kidding me? No!’”
So, I asked her, why did you do it?
So she sipped her coffee, her face already recovering from the puffy swelling of every frozen ultrarunner who staggered home two weeks ago, and tried to explain.
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