Skills to succeed: setting goals, running your own race and why teamwork counts

LJ Blog

An interview with Laura Jones

We’re delighted to welcome our newest Scout Adventurer, Laura Jones. Laura is an endurance athlete and mountaineer, who just over a year ago challenged herself to running seven marathons on seven continents – with very little running experience under her belt – to raise money for two charities, including the Scouts.

Laura, congratulations on completing this hugely impressive challenge! What marathons did you set out on?

I ran the London Marathon in April 2017, and then the Everest Marathon in May. In June I began the Banff Marathon but had to pull out 12 kilometres in because of an injury. After recovering, I did the Patagonia Marathon in September. In October I did the Rottnest Marathon in Australia. In November I did the Seattle Marathon, which was my substitute for the Banff Marathon which I had to pull out of. In January 2018 I went to the Yukon Arctic and did the Arctic Marathon, and finally I finished with the Kilimanjaro Marathon in Tanzania this March. 

What an extraordinary achievement, and how wonderful to be raising money for charity. How did you get involved in Scouting?

My husband Rhys had always been a part of the Scouts and it’s been fundamental in everything he’s achieved. He climbed the seven summits and summited Everest on his 20thbirthday, which was inspired by a Scouts talk he heard when he was 12 years old. Scouts supported him through all of his expeditions and have encouraged him to this very day. Because he was a Scout leader, I would go along to summer camps and I always felt part of the family. 

When Rhys and I were getting married, we were doing it on a shoestring and the Scout Group we are a part of were more than happy to help out. It was really an amazing effort and I just felt so thankful and inspired by the fact that my husband had been so looked after and inspired in Scouts and so I thought, they helped shape him into the person he is today, so we want to give back for that.

And when you think of Scouts you know, do any similar skills come to mind? 

When I meet Scout leaders and Scouts, I’m instantly welcomed and made to feel part of the team. They’re the first to hold up their hand and say, well we can help with that. They’re good team players and look out for each other and they know how to enjoy the outdoors. 

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So you’ve been on this incredible adventure for the last year or so. What first inspired you to take on this challenge?

My husband and I run an adventure travel company and a client said that he wanted to run a marathon but he didn’t like the idea of running one of the more popular marathons. He said he was very interested in the Everest Marathon and wanted someone to do it with him. I thought I’d love to do that and so jumped at the chance. It was only over the next couple of days that I realised what I’d signed up to, as someone who was not a runner. I thought, goodness, I’m going to have to really train for this. 

But I seem to be the best version of myself when I have a challenge to keep me motivated. If I have a goal I seem to be quite dedicated to achieving that goal. So I thought okay I can do this. It just means starting from scratch. I went to a beginners’ group in a running club and could barely run a kilometre. When I said to them I wanted to run the Everest Marathon the following May, they couldn’t believe it – seeing what I could then do, which was not a lot! 

But I had a goal. And so I just progressed. I did 5k’s and then 10k’s and sort of just built up. I then decided it would be amazing to expand the challenge. I thought one marathon would be great but I like the idea of a large challenge for myself and I also wanted to raise money for charities so I thought, well Rhys had done the seven summits so maybe I could do the seven marathons – a definite challenge for me. 

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What’s been your toughest moment and how did you overcome it?

I had quite a few ups and downs throughout. I was a bit ambitious with my scheduling. For somebody who had never done any running, it was a lot to ask of my body in such a sort space of time. I’d never really developed the running muscles I needed so when I came back from Everest and had the Banff marathon only a few weeks later, I didn’t realise that I had injured myself quite badly during the Everest Marathon on the downhill section, which meant that I had to pull out of the Banff marathon 12km in. 

It was a really horrible moment for me. I’d been saying I was going do this, I was going do this, and then all of a sudden I was running back and forth saying I was going to pull out and then no I’m going to carry on. I was screaming in pain. I had a really bad knee and the difficult thing was that mentally, it felt like failure. After that I realised what I was putting myself through.  

But I had so much support from everybody back home, even from people I didn’t know, people on social media who had followed my journey, and it just reminded me that actually this is about far more than just the races. It’s a journey and people are following the journey.  The encouragement I had from people gave me the confidence and courage in myself to get better and carry on with the rest of the challenge. People messaged me to say that this part of the journey was much more relatable – people doget injured.  

That was the low point of the challenge, being injured and having to come back from injury when I was being told by a few other runners that I was being a bit silly putting myself through something so quickly and that I should pull out of the whole thing. That was tough to come back from, because if there are people telling you to give up, it’s easy to think you really should give up. But I didn’t want to give up. 

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Amazing to have come back from that and gone ahead and done it anyway. Of all your marathons across all those continents what comes to mind as the most magical, inspiring moment?

I’d probably say the Everest Marathon. It was tough but unlike any other marathon it takes two weeks just to get to the start line, so you have to hike to Everest Base Camp and acclimatise. But being amongst all of those Himalayan giants, those incredible mountains, is just magical. 

Most people don’t realise that if you go to the summit of Everest base camp you can’t actually stay overnight – you have to come back down. But if you do the Everest Marathon they allow you to stay the night. So we stayed for two nights before the marathon, which is such an experience because you see all the teams coming in, and you kind of feel the history of all the people who have been there before you. It’s a very inspiring place to see people doing such amazing things. That one was also special to me because it’s what started the whole journey for me. 

On your blog you also described a really moving interaction with a woman from Mexico when you were running up against incredibly strong winds in Patagonia. And so you took turns to shield each other from the gusts and crossed the finish line together. Can you tell us a bit about that? 

I’ll never forget crossing the finish line. We battled for hours together and we motivated each other to keep positive. During different times during the run both of us had our low moments and so we joined forces. It’s funny how two people from two different backgrounds speaking different languages can connect and then keep that connection. I’ll always have that connection to Noma. We achieved something together. 

Similarly I met a gentleman a few miles from the finish line on Kilimanjaro and we just chatted to the end to get ourselves through the last painful few miles together and again we’ve stayed in touch. You form bonds with people across the world through these challenges. 

I’ve made so many different friends this last year. You’re brought together by this shared goal and you’re there for one another when you can see someone struggling. Now, the most important thing about running marathons for me is the journey and the true sportsmanship of working as a team when you see others struggling, and when people see me struggling as well. 

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In another blog post you mention how inspired you are by people who inspire – who inspires you most? 

Rhys has always inspired me, not just because of what he’s achieved but his outlook in regards to me achieving things as well. He’s a true Scout. When other people would say ‘you’re doing what? You’re mad!’ he’d say ‘no, you can do it.’ He’s been nothing but encouraging. He’s never given up on his dreams and never given up on my dreams either. 

My mum’s also been a great inspiration. She’s been a single parent for many years and superwoman when it comes to sport and fitness. She was doing triathlons in her 50s. She’s also a nurse and gives a lot of time back through lifeguarding and lifesaving. I’ve been very lucky to have an inspiring mum who’s always encouraged me. Even though I wasn’t a part of the Scout movement growing up, my mum was. 

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You said something really interesting on your blog about this challenge. You said: ‘this challenge means so much to me, and not because I want to say that I’ve run a marathon on each of the 7 continents. I want to say that I really found out who I am, who Laura is when the going gets tough. I want to think that I can always keep a positive mindset and keep going. Even though I’m not the fittest or the fastest runner out there, I’m still out there, I’m still pushing my own boundaries and I want you to know that you can do it too.’

It’s such a great message. Now that you’ve completed the challenge would you say this would be the overriding takeaway?

I would say that would definitely be my overriding message to myself, and others, about this challenge. But it’s not just about keeping a positive mindset – that’s easier said than done, especially when you are in pain and you are enduring difficult things. It’s also about learning. I’ve learnt so much about myself and about what it actually takes to keep myself focused and motivated. 

I’ve grown a confidence in myself. Now I know not to belittle my achievements because I’m out there, I’m doing this and that means something. This challenge has given me confidence in myself because I know that I can achieve whatever I put my mind to. 

What keeps coming to mind is the idea that we’re all running our own race. I think that’s my message to myself going forward: run your own race. It’s all about your journey. It’s your run so however you want to complete it, complete it.

LJ Patagonia

For further insight into Laura’s journey visit http://www.icanrun7.com/

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