Jessica Rowlands is a twenty-year-old law student from London with too much energy. Each year she tries to do something that really challenges her. In 2014 she learnt to fly and last year she decided to run her first marathon… the Polar Circle Marathon that is!
I had initially signed up for the Paris Marathon, but when injury struck and I had to pull out, I knew I needed to commit to something big to keep me motivated. So I googled “cool marathons” and ended up signing myself up for the Polar Circle Marathon literally “the coolest marathon on earth”. I decided to raise money for Mind, which is a really fantastic cause, but I didn’t announce my intention to run (and therefore ask for sponsorship) until three weeks before the race. This was because even up until the last few minutes I wasn’t sure if I would make it, and I didn’t want to let anyone down.
So, at the end of October I headed out to a remote town in the Arctic Circle in Greenland and met a group of much older and much more experienced runners. They also turned out to be some of the best people I have ever met. Part of the race was on a 100,000-year-old ice sheet where the wind chill reached minus 30 degrees C. The winding hills of the next 30 kilometres showed us some incredible landscapes in the monumental arctic desert.
At kilometre 37 I found myself alone amongst all this beauty and vividly remember being concerned about frostbite on my cheeks (having ditched my balaclava) so I started singing Beyoncé tunes at the top of my voice to keep the blood flowing. Good job no one was around to witness that calamity.
Some might argue I wasn’t running fast enough if I had the energy to sing Single Ladies and they might be right, because I desperately didn’t want the race to finish. I was utterly loopy with euphoria. Clearly I am no athlete, but I ended up being the first British woman to finish the race in a very long, slow, slippy and magnificent 5 hours and 13 minutes. I also managed to raise over £1,600 for Mind.
The best bit was that I was persuaded by some Navy SEALs that it would be a good idea to get up the following day to run the half marathon. It turns out this sort of thing has diminishing marginal returns; day two brought less euphoria and more moaning. But I made it. I have always loved the outdoors but this experience has multiplied my addiction to outdoor sports.
Whilst others my age like to spend their weekends jumping around in clubs and putting pizza on the ceiling I have just bought a new pair of trail shoes and a tent and have planned some adequately cold, wet and lonely weekends in the wintery wilderness of the UK.
It is experiences like the Polar Circle Marathon and magazines like Outdoor Fitness that make me realise that I’m not a total weirdo for enjoying this stuff, or if I am, at least I’m not alone…