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7 adventurers and athletes on how they approach the colder months – plus the winter races they wont forget


Too cold outside? Well you’re less likely to overheat then. Too wet? Again, at least you’ll be cool, plus you can have some fun getting dirty. Days too short? You could say that means longer nights to recover.

Staying fit through winter is all about looking at the positives, don’t let the conditions beat you and keep you housebound. Get out there and embrace it all. You really won’t regret it. These adventurers and athletes will vouch for that…

Sophie Radcliffe

Adventure and fitness blogger (challengesophie.com)

Sophie Radcliffe

We asked: What has been your most challenging winter event?
“It was the Hell Runner which is an 11-mile offroad running race through mud, sand and all sorts! It was my first experience of running off-road or anywhere near that distance. I signed up with a few friends and although none of us ran together, the stories we shared for months afterwards were brilliant. I loved the camaraderie of the event, the way that it didn’t matter what the time was or how fast you were running and of course, I loved the mud. It was November and freezing cold, it certainly makes you feel great getting to the finish line!”

Sean Conway

Holder of the record for the world’s longest triathlon

Sean Conway

We asked: Do you take your foot off the gas at all during winter?
“I always keep the two fairly well known phrases in the back of my mind. I heard these years ago and they really resonated with me:
1.   Winter miles equals summer smiles. It doesn’t take much to keep fit and it’s way, way harder to start all over again the following summer.
2.  There’s no such thing as bad weather, just soft people. Whenever I look outside and it’s a bit grim and I think to myself I don’t want to do this, I then realise I’m being soft and need to harden up. I then think of the first phrase again and I’m good to go. Life’s too short to spend it on the sofa.”

Damian Hall

Part the Great Britain Ultra Running Team and a regular contributor to Outdoor Fitness magazine

Damian Hall

We asked: What’s been your most memorable winter event?
“I blame my midlife crisis for sending me on the Spine Race, 268 miles along the Pennine Way in January. It had every type of weather imaginable, but the real challenge was the lack of sleep, that led to hallucinations and chronic tiredness. I remember waking up as my head slid down the wall towards my gas cooker flame. And getting lost. Which was embarrassing, because I’ve written the official guide for the route. The sense of achievement at the end was huge though. And I quickly signed up to do it again.”

Steve Birkinshaw

Record breaking fell runner and Berghaus athlete

Steve Birkinshaw

We asked: What’s been your most memorable winter event?
“I have done the Marmot Dark Mountains event. That was 12 hours overnight in February navigating round a 50km course with 20 checkpoints over Kinder Scout and Bleaklow in the Peak District. I won the elite course with Tom Gibbs. It was amazingly fun and rewarding navigating in the dark and fog. All of our navigational skills were needed – map, compass, pacing, altimeter (GPS was not allowed). The best bit was seeing dawn after we had been out all night – this was as we approached the final checkpoint.”

Olivier Bernhardt

Co-founder of On Running and 6x Ironman champion

Olivier Bernhardt

We asked: What’s the key to staying motivated over winter?
“Since running is a form of freedom for me, I never need to motivate myself, but I understand that it can be challenging for others. My best motivator is to think about how great you will feel after the run. Set realistic, short term goals like doing a weekly parkrun, as consistency is the key. Ensure the body is fully warmed up, maybe spend longer on this than normal, to prevent injuries. Hydrate even if you don’t feel thirsty.”

Sean Macfarlane

Triathlete

Sean McFarlane

We asked: What’s been your most memorable winter event?
“I’ve taken part in many winter events – you’ve got to get out and embrace the conditions. My most memorable event was probably a triathlon on New Year’s day in Edinburgh. Coming out of the swimming pool to change in the car park into biking gear was a novel experience, especially as the snow was coming down. The onlookers, many of them still pushing on through with the festivities, looked bewildered at what we were doing.”

Patrick Kinsella

Adventure writer

Patrick Kinsella

We asked: Have you ever tried a winter obstacle race?
“I took part in the Tough Guy Challenge on assignment for Outdoor Fitness magazine. The event happens in the depths of winter in a Wolverhampton field full of muddy puddles, barbed and electrified wires, and various other obstacles – which is about as glamorous as it sounds. I won’t lie – it was nasty. The race leader cut himself to bits breaking the ice on the water obstacles and the bloke in front of me was wearing a mankini which left nothing to the imagination whilst climbing over things. I have never been so cold in my life. I still shudder at the memory (of the cold and the mankini). “