Inspiring Women’s tag line is “Inspire, Believe, Achieve” and Karen Darke (Inspiring Women Speaker) is perhaps more closely aligned to all three words
than most. She is one of the most inspirational people I have ever come across; she has huge belief in her own abilities and has achieved some
quite remarkable feats.
Karen was a keen runner and mountaineer before becoming paralysed in a rock-climbing accident aged 21 and has since pursued alternative ways to access
the outdoors – canoeing, sit-skiing and hand-cycling. She has hand-cycled in various corners of the world, including Central Asia and the Himalaya,
the Karakoram and the length of the Japanese archipelago.
Karen has co-organised Sea kayaking expeditions along the coastlines of British Columbia and Alaska, skied across the Greenland icecap, climbed the
kilometre-high vertical rock-face of El Capitan and kayaked through the fjords of Patagonia. More recently Karen has cycled the Tibetan Plateau
otherwise known as ‘The Roof of the World’. Prior to her Tibetan challenge Karen also competed in the London 2012 Paralympics coming away with
a Silver Medal for British Cycling. The mental and physical challenges that Karen has had to endure have been immense but this wonder woman continues
to prove that even the biggest challenges and seemingly impossible tasks can be overcome.
In September of last year Karen embarked on yet another challenge that initially seemed impossible to her, competing in the Mallorca Iron Man. This
would involve swimming 2.4 miles, handbiking 112 miles and using a racing wheelchair to run the 26.2 mile marathon. Whilst the distances in Iron
Man are highly challenging for all, the fact that Karen could only use the power of her arms in all three disciplines means that completion would
be a phenomenal achievement. A film has been made to document this challenge, the premiere of which is being screened at the Sheffield Adventure
Film festival in March as part of their Women in Adventure programme. The film is aptly named ‘Impossible’ and will I am sure inspire us all and
instil in us the belief that nothing is really impossible, everything is possible.
Many would rest here but not Karen. Her next big focus is Rio and the 2016 Olympics where she will hope to compete as part of the Great British Cycling
team; once more entering the ‘pressure cooker’ of British team racing as Karen describes it. Like London 2012, Rio 2016 will be an entirely different
adventure to cycling the ‘Roof of the World’ with friends or traversing the length of Greenland or climbing the El Capitan but the mental toughness
and determination that Karen has used in the past to turn impossible to possible will surely spur her on in Rio. As Karen reflected in Tibet: “...
cycling up the last ‘double-dipper’ passes (two in one with a drop down between them), especially the final stretch to 5250m and a massive view
of the Himalaya and Nepal, the scenery tugged out our emotion. I felt to be riding into the future, a future full of excitement and beauty to match
the mountains around us. I knew why I’d had to wait twenty years for the journey. Twenty years ago it wouldn’t have had the same impact”
Following her Rio 2016 challenge Karen will, I am sure, continue to live life seeing the possibility in everything. Her life, since her accident in
21, is not centred on what she now can’t do but is focussed entirely on her ability and what she can do. Karen makes the impossible possible. She
Inspires those that know her and those that don’t, she encourages Belief in others and she has and will continue to Achieve greatness.
In Karen’s own words: “What is life if it isn’t an adventure? I’m constantly amazed by what can be achieved if we set our heart and mind to it. It’s
all about finding belief, confidence, motivation and commitment. There are no limits.”
Article by Catherine Spencer
For more information about 'Impossbible' visit http://www.shaff.co.uk/whats-on/films-a-to-z-list-2015/impossible/