9 adventurers who overcame the odds in incredible ways

Adapted from the article I wrote for Red Bull

“What's within you is stronger than what's in your way." Inspirational adventurers who prove anything is possible if you put your mind to it...

Have you ever felt like giving up on achieving your dreams? Did you feel the odds were stacked against you?

I understand how you feel. I’ve been there more times than I care to count. For 4 years I experienced severe Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS/ME) and other childhood conditions, which made my life very challenging. The deterioration in my health forced me to withdraw from university and live at home, mostly in bed, in a darkened and silent room.

Initially Doctors came up with all sorts of explanations, as CFS/ME doesn’t have a medical test or ‘cure’. To be diagnosed, everything else has to be eliminated.

I soon gave up on the medical world, as they seemed to give up on me. One of the CFS/ME leading experts told me that I’d have this condition for the rest of my life, there was no way to recover and I’d likely get worse. I refused to believe this.

Over the years I tried lots of different things and nothing really worked. So I know what it’s like to try again and again for little success and sometimes even steps backwards.

However, eventually I did fully recover using a powerful combination of tools and practices that enabled me to quickly re-wire my brain for the life I wanted to live. I’ve not looked back since and each day, I work towards living and creating a life I love and helping others to do the same. In this time, I’ve fulfilled two of my dreams.

When I was little girl, I was the one who dreamt of visiting the Arctic. The stories that have been woven into its culture and landscape captured my imagination and last year I cross-country skied across Svalbard for 9 days. In those 9 days I fell in love with the rhythm of skiing, Arctic camp life, Scandinavian culture and stunning white landscape.


(Listen or Read my story of crossing Svalbard here - I talk about the lessons I learnt, the high's and the low's!)

While I was sick, my most ambitious dream took hold: to be become an Ironman. In September last year this dream came true. When I started training a year before, besides not being fit when I began, I had never cycled on the road, run more than 15km, nor had any real experience of open water swimming. The Ironman Barcelona was my first triathlon and I achieved the race in 13 hours 58 minutes.


(Are you competing in an Ironman this year? Read my article on the 10 things I will be different for my half Ironman this year!)

The knowledge and tactics I acquired to fully recover from CFS had such a profound effect on me that I have now qualified as a practitioner. As well as them helping me to achieve my dreams, I help athletes and ambitious men and women to develop a winning mindset and live a life they love too.

I fully believe almost anything is possible if you put your mind to it. I know it’s easy to write about and harder to take action on, but if these 9 awesome adventurers and I can bend what’s possible, then why can’t you?

1. Kiko Matthews

“You becoming empowered through pushing your boundaries and realise anything is possible."

This year, Kiko Matthews broke the world record for the fastest unsupported solo row across the Atlantic ocean. 

Kiko’s achievement is even more spectacular because in 2009 she was diagnosed and survived the rare and life-threatening condition called Cushing's Disease, which is caused by a tumour on the base of the brain. During her training last year, Kiko had to undergo more brain surgery to remove a new tumour. But did that stop her from achieving her dream? It did not.

(Listen to Kiko on The Wild Show - which she listened to whilst rowing the Atlantic! - to discover more about her incredible story!)

2. Erik Weihenmayer

“What's within you is stronger than what's in your way."

There are inspirational stories – and then there is that of Erik Weihenmayer, who lost his eyesight when he was a teenager due to a degenerative eye condition and became the first (and only) person to summit Mount Everest.

Motivated by the joy and discovery of what is possible, along with Everest he's completed the Seven Summits Mountaineering Challenge and with fellow blind athlete Lonnie Bedwell, a Navy veteran, he kayaked the 277-mile length of the Grand Canyon. A lesson for us all to never give up in reaching our goals.

3. Beth French

“Never be afraid – rock bottom is merely a foundation to build a better future.”

When Beth Frenchwas 10, she caught glandular fever, which caused her early life to be blighted with periods of immune dysfunction and exhaustion. At 17 she was wheelchair bound and diagnosed with CFS/ME.

Since fully recovering over 20 years ago, Beth has lived an adventurous life. She’s best known for endurance swimming and attempting to achieve the Oceans Seven challenge in one year, which is seven long distance open water channel swims.

4. Gavan Hennigan

“Forsake the narrative of society, take that time off, spend those savings, inspire yourself and take on something truly bigger than yourself and do it before the fearful and doubtful mind has a chance to pipe up.”

The life of rower, explorer and ultra runner Gavan Hennigan hasn’t always been plain sailing. When he was young, Gavan suffered from alcohol and drug addiction and found himself in rehab at just 21.

But after going surfing with a friend on the shores of his native Galway, Gavan got lost in nature and believed it was an epiphany. Since then he has pushed the possibilities of human endurance, working worldwide as deep sea saturation diver and adventuring on all seven continents on his off months.

This includes climbing and snowboarding in Antarctica, completing two of the longest and toughest Winter Ultra runs in the world, and, surely the 36-year-old’s biggest moment to date, rowing the Atlantic, breaking a record as the fastest person to do it solo.

5. Juliana Buhring


Juliana Buhring has overcome the odds in stunning fashion © JULIANA BUHRING

“Many people postpone making their dreams a reality to wait for the perfect time. There is no such thing. The perfect time is right now.”

Widely considered one of the world’s strongest female ultra-endurance cyclists, Juliana Buhring's hardest path has often been off the saddle.

Moving frequently throughout 30 countries across Asia, Africa, and Europe in her childhood, she was separated from her mother aged four and grew up among the Children of God, an infamous apocalyptic cult.

In 2010, the love of her life, Hendri Coetzee – explorer and adventurer– was tragically killed when a crocodile attacked him on a river in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

But she didn't let it break her. She turned to cycling for comfort and has since become an endurance icon. Her incredible achievements include becoming the fastest woman to cycle solo around the world and winning third place in the self-supported Bikingman Oman Sprint - riding 1,070 kilometers non-stop in 49 hours 53 minutes.

6. Tashi and Nungshi Malik

“Infuse your life with action. Don't wait for it to happen. Make it happen. Make your own future.”

Tashi and Nungshi Malik are twin sisters and by 24 had become the first siblings and twins to climb the Seven Summits, reach the North and South Poles and complete the Explorers' Grand Slam and Three Poles Challenge.

Very few Indian women have gained the mountaineering qualifications that Tashi and Nungshi have. Their adventures are inspired by the daily obstacles and hardships that many Indian women face, including discrimination, exclusion and denial of basic rights.

They show that with determination, grit and hard work, you can achieve your dreams.

7. Jamie McDonald

“Anyone can be a superhero.”

Jamie McDonald spent the first nine years of his life in and out of hospital with a rare spinal condition, along with a very weak immune system and epilepsy. Over time his health significantly improved and in 2012 he began a quest to give back to the hospitals that supported him.

Jamie has since cycled 14,000 miles from Bangkok to his hometown of Gloucester, become the first person to run 5,000 miles unsupported across Canada and this year he’s running unsupported across the US. See? Real heroes do wear capes.

8. Lizzie Carr

“Life is fragile and precious. Don’t wait until it’s too late to finally work this out.”

Five years ago, Lizzie Carr was diagnosed with cancer. She decided to quit her job and throw herself fully into life and live the life she’d always dreamed of.

Lizzie has been in remission for three years and is a double record holder, she is the first person to stand up paddleboard the length of Britain, spearheading an awareness campaign to combat plastic pollution and is the first woman to SUP the English channel.

9. Jake Tyler

“Something happens to us when we push through what we think is our best; we see how much power we have, it gives us self belief.” 

Last year, Jake Tylerwas troubled by anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts – he was scared that he would never recover. However, he noticed that when he was walking outside he felt much better. So, he decided to promote awareness and raise money for mental health groups by embarking on an outstanding 3000 mile walk around the British Isles and he absolutely smashed it while taking in the sights, sounds, characters and stunning walks of the British Isles.

Get involved yourself. Jake's about to join some charity walks as part of Walking Out of Darkness 2018, a movement raising money for mental health and suicide prevention charities including CLASP.

I don't know about you, but I am feeling very inspired and motivated after reading the achievements of these badass adventurers!

So what is stopping you from achieving your dreams? Let me know by sending me a message through my website, as I'd love to help you :)