Spring has Sprung (Predictable); A New Chapter ft. Imposter Syndrome

Apologies for the incredibly cliché title (cue 86,472 ‘spring has sprung’ Instagram captions featuring 86,472 23-year-old females posing provocatively next to blossom trees), but it seemed apt for this post.

After spending a magical long weekend in Dubrovnik and taking the rest of this week off work, I’ve had some time to reflect on the past couple of weeks of marathon training (or lack of marathon training), and mentally prepare myself for a busy month ahead. Whilst I’m not going to ramble on about how spring brings about new growth, fresh starts, new beginnings etc., I do find this time of year very refreshing, and coincidentally this year the new season aligns with an exciting new chapter for me as a few days ago I moved into my new flat.

I cannot believe that I am now an actual REAL-LIFE home owner. It blows my mind. But, at the same time, it doesn’t really blow my mind given the fact that I have been saving up for over a decade to get to this stage.

On this note, I wanted to delve into imposter syndrome – definition: a psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their accomplishments and has a persistent internalised fear of being exposed as a “fraud”. I know a lot of women (and men, but predominantly women) who despite having accomplished great things, struggle with self-belief.

Although this may sound materialistic, my new flat is my greatest achievement. This is not related to my flat itself, although yessss I am excited to purchase unnecessary seahorse ornaments and bellow “NOT UNDER MY ROOF” if anyone dares wear shoes inside. It’s about the hard work and sacrifice that has gone into becoming a homeowner; completing my master’s degree whilst juggling a full-time job, the little sacrifices, and everything else that has led up to this point.

However, there is part of me that feels like a fraud. I feel guilty for my privilege, and the fact that I am lucky enough to be in a position where I can buy a property. Whenever someone asks me how I can afford to buy alone (which in my opinion is an intrusive question, and one that I am asked frequently) I always feel the need to reassure them that for the next few years at least money will be very tight, that the property prices in South London are far more affordable etc. Essentially, I am avoiding the question, when the simple and honest answer is that I worked hard and saved.

There is, of course, a fine line between humility and hubris. I truly believe that arrogance is one of the ugliest traits, and I would genuinely be mortified if anything in this post comes across as boastful or overly self-indulgent.

My point is that I am proud of what I have achieved, and I want to see more women celebrate their achievements – because you have EVERY right to celebrate, proudly and unapologetically.

Malawi Diaries Part 3: Kayak Challenge & Rainbow Hope Secondary School

The third and final challenge was a 25km Kayak on Lake Malawi, around Cape Maclear and Domwe Island.

I have never kayaked before, much to the amusement and disbelief of my wonderful and very patient kayaking guide. In fact, I haven’t been in a boat since 2003; 15 years ago, I went on a school trip to France, and the ferry journey was so unpleasant that I dramatically vowed to NEVER set foot on a boat again.

I was (definitely) not a natural on the kayak, but I was given some great tips from my guide and teammates, and eventually we got into a strong, comfortable rhythm. The Kayak challenge took around 4 and a half hours, and despite my initial concerns I found it rather therapeutic and of course the views were spectacular.

After the excitement of completing (and surviving!) the final Sport with a Purpose challenge, we visited Rainbow Hope Secondary School.

We were treated to a fantastic but heart-wrenching drama performance, which highlighted some of the issues that Malawian women face; serious gender disparities are prominent in Malawi and the play touched on just a few of these – education, marriage, and violence against women.

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Over the past five years, Rainbow Hope has developed from what was essentially a piece of derelict land to a functioning secondary school with three classrooms and 130 students. The aim is for the school to sustain itself by fee paying students, therefore most children must be sponsored to attend.

The Sport with a Purpose Team have sponsored 25 children, who will now be able to attend Rainbow Hope for their four years of secondary school education. * I am really excited to be a part of this!

It’s difficult to sum up my experiences, and actually I don’t want to, because I feel like I am still living it. I don’t want to come across like a pretentious moron, but I genuinely feel like a different person as a result of my time spent in Malawi. I hope that I have brought that person home with me, and I hope to continue to spread the word and inspire people to visit Malawi; friends, family, colleagues and strangers have asked me many questions and displayed a real curiosity, which was quite unexpected and very heartening.

Zikomo to everyone involved for the most challenging, emotional and inspirational trip.

*If you are interested in sponsorship, please do let me know and I can provide further details. It only costs £140 – £175 per year, and your sponsorship could make a HUGE difference to a potential pupil who will be so keen to learn.

Malawi Diaries Part 2: Cycle Challenge & YODEP

The second part of my Malawi Diaries will cover our visit to YODEP Village Community Project and our next challenge – the 55k Zomba Plateau Ride (climbing over 6000ft!)

I am a (very) nervous cyclist, therefore I anticipated that this would be my biggest challenge of the three. However, this brutal mountain bike was tougher than I ever could have anticipated, both physically and mentally.

Much like the Mulanje Mountain run, the route was very technical and therefore tricky to navigate. There were two options for the cycle, 35k or 55k, and in my head I was always going to complete the shorter ride (which was still an ABSOLUTE beast.) However, upon approaching the 35k split (whilst gripping onto my handlebars so tightly that I was beginning to lose sensation in my fingers), I was encouraged by my wonderful teammates to go for the 55k.

My biggest cycling fear is riding downhill, and this was downhill like I had never seen it before; steep, rough terrain with large rocks, holes and various other obstacles. We cycled through forests, streams and picturesque waterfalls – the views were INCREDIBLE.

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Although I wish I could say that I began to relax as the ride progressed, my honest feedback is that I felt anxious for approximately 90% of the Zomba Plateau challenge. Anxious is probably an understatement – I was sweating like a pregnant warthog.

However, it was an incredible experience, and I am very proud of everyone that completed it and so thankful for all the encouragement and words of wisdom from our fantastic guides. Despite my fear of the bike, this will not be the end of my cycling ‘career’ as I am far too stubborn/motivated/crazy to give up – plus, I’ve committed to take on my first triathlon next year!

Another highlight from my time in Malawi was our visit to YODEP Village Community Project.

YODEP (Youth for Development and Productivity) is a nonprofit community based organisation, established to help address socio-economic issues encountered by orphaned children, women and youth.

We received a very warm welcome upon our arrival at YODEP including allllll the singing, dancing, smiles and laughter.

A 5k run around the village really highlighted the strength and resilience of these amazing children – some ran in flip flops, some ran in odd shoes, and some ran in no shoes, but this most definitely did not stop them! These kids are SO fast and so talented, and with the right support and opportunities, could potentially go on to become world-class athletes.

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This was another eye-opening experience, and one that I will never forget. It was a pleasure meeting the kids at YODEP, who not only displayed exceptional sporting talent, but were also so welcoming, curious and kind-hearted.

If you are interested in helping YODEP, please let me know and I can provide further info!

Malawi Training/ I have no idea what I’m doing

Upon recently being accepted onto the ultimate Malawi Challenge: Sport with a Purpose, I frantically began searching for training plans for similar challenges. This raised 2 key issues:

  1. The majority of plans were created to be undertaken 6 months prior to expedition, and I depart on 6th October
  2. I couldn’t find any similar challenges…

Therefore I decided to write my own 4 week plan, based on nothing but my non-existant knowledge of running at altitude, kayaking etc.

A few days into this plan, I quickly realised that I urgently needed to simmer down because training 3 times a day is OBVIOUSLY completely unrealistic.

I then completely re-wrote the plan, based on more concrete evidence, and have subsequently re-written the plan every day since. I now have precisely 2 weeks 1 day until the ultimate Malawi Challenge, and to be perfectly honest I still have no idea what I’m doing. However, I thought I would share a couple of the highlights/lowlights of my ‘training’ thus far:

  • L A Y E R S, all the layers

As per recommendation of one of the greatest trail runners of all time (this was obviously not recommended directly to me as said runner has no idea who I am), I have done a few short distance runs wearing multiple layers. When I say as per recommendation, what this individual actually recommended was investing in a heat suit. I wore 5 layers, including a thermal vest and a ski jacket; I knew this was stupid at the time, but still proceeded to do it. It was uncomfortable and I looked like a moron, but apart from that I suppose it served its purpose.

  • Altitude training

To pre-acclimatise, I am aiming on taking 6 classes at the Altitude Centre prior to my departure. These are high intensity interval training classes, at a simulated altitude of approximately 2,710m, 15% oxygen.

My first session was both fantastic and nauseating, and I can safely say that I believe this form of training will be far more effective than prancing around in my ski jacket.

There is only so much I can do training wise within a period of 4 weeks, and I think at this point I just need to turn it down to a light simmer and enjoy the process. However, if anyone has any recommendations as to what I can do short term to acclimatise etc, please do let me know!