I have, over time, been very privileged to meet extreme athletes and adventurers doing all sorts of truly remarkable challenges around the world. So for me, I wanted to get into the mind of an athlete like this, why do they do it and what makes them tick?
Sophie Radcliffe comes to our conversation having spent a few days in Spain power gliding, white water rafting, skiing and rock climbing with sky diving
to follow in a couple of days. It’s safe to say she ticks the extreme/endurance/adventure box! What on earth does the ‘bucket’ list of someone like that
Sophie talks with an enthusiasm that almost makes me want to sign up for the next adventure - until she informs me that a ‘fun’ weekend is: to cycle to
Paris from London and be back to start work Monday. I opt for the coffee and a chat with her instead.
As with all things, it starts with an idea. “I love nothing more than coming up with an idea of something I want to do and then going and doing it,” she
says of the initial plan. But even plan such things? As I ask the questions in different ways to get to the essence of her motivation it’s fascinating
to see the theme and the incredible life lessons that can be taken from them. “That is exactly what I am wanting to do,” she says. “What drives me is the
application in the real world.” So often adventures are just that: adventures - but what Sophie is wanting to achieve here is something different, something
that allows ‘ordinary people’ to do extraordinary things and in so doing improve their real world lives - and that’s fascinating and exciting to see.
For Sophie adventure is about a huge number of different things - but they all melt down to the same fundamental things in essence. It’s about knowing
more about yourself, accepting yourself, enjoying the world and connecting with it in a way technology has made us lose sight of. From the initial planning
phase through to the actual adventure Sophie enjoys each moment. But the adventure/challenge for her is about so, so much more.
From seeing the early morning mist as you climb into a kayak in the silence, to sunrises and scenery of various landscapes and countries, they all produce
a visual inspiration for the very physical and mental challenge ahead. Surrounded by friends, being outdoors with people who love what they are doing all
forms part of the experience for her. It also creates a bond that is often very deep as they all combine to achieve their common goal.
It’s about digging deep and doing something that makes her feel so alive that “….you feel like you can overcome anything after completing a challenge,”
For me the interesting thing is that although it is about the visual stimulation, the auditory experience, the bonding of friends old and new and the
‘rush’ of the activity, for Sophie there is another dimension and it is this that is fantastic. For her, this additional dimension is about understanding
yourself, learning about yourself and in many ways unlearning so many things and assumptions.
This then gives you confidence in knowing who you really are and understanding what that knowledge means to you as an individual. It’s about getting to
a point where you don’t need the validation of others, because you have achieved so much and proved to yourself what you can do. Most importantly, it provides
perspective. “If we stop worrying, we can achieve so much more,” Sophie says of getting to that point.
Sophie takes on challenges, yes. But these challenges aren’t purely for the sake of a challenge or another adventure - for her, it is about connection,
friends, the outdoors and overcoming. And most importantly, it’s about self-improvement and being able to integrate that back into the real world where
most people live 9-5 lives.
This approach has had a dynamic impact on Sophie’s life and also on those around her as they connect with her vision of balancing adventure with everyday
life. A wonderful way to live!
Photo: Gareth Davies Photography