The toughest, most rewarding challenge of my life

Help, my kids are trying to kill me! We’re having the toughest, most rewarding time of our lives on the Virgin Strive Challenge.

Tomorrow, we are starting at 5am. We’ve got 155km to cover in a day. On that same day we will be biking half the height of Everest – 4500 metres. The first thousand metres are essentially straight up, as we climb up and up to start the hike across the mountains the following day. I’m told it will be one of the most stunning and challenging hikes in the world. The scenery is astoundingly beautiful, from Roman forts to picturesque vistas – but the climbs just keep coming.

What’s now been interesting to me on this Challenge is to see the difference in what my body is capable of compared to two years ago. Before the last Virgin Strive Challenge I suffered some serious injuries when I fell off my bike, and had to miss lots of training. Most days I had to leave an hour earlier than the main group in order to finish each stage before the end. This time around, I have managed to get a full training program in and it has made a huge difference.

I’m generally finishing in the top 10 per cent of riders each day. Not bad for a 68-year-old!  It just goes to show that even if you are slightly older, if you can keep your body fit and healthy and your mind well-balanced and motivated, then it’s possible to do anything. Even this ridiculously extreme event! Tomorrow’s ride alone will be harder than most people will do in a lifetime. That is just one day of Strive. Pretty much every day is a new level of toughness.

But the Strivers are just a fantastic group of people and we’re all helping each other through it. I was talking to one person who said: “When I’m on my deathbed I will look back the major events in my life, and Strive will be one of the highlights. It’s so rare to test yourself to the absolute limit.” Sam and Noah are rallying everyone superbly – I recommend watching Sam’s daily videos on Instagram for a rounded view of what it’s really like to Strive every day.

Thank you to everyone who has been donating to Big Change, the charity set up by my children to support young people to thrive in life, not just exams. It’s the reason we are doing this Challenge, and people from all over the world are being incredibly generous. I’m learning more every day about the work Big Change does, supporting organisations to improve education, help teachers’ jobs become more satisfying and enjoyable, and tackle issues like school exclusions – more on that soon.

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