By Alison Ryan
She began in 2013 by resigning from a stable job in search of a more adventurous and fulfilling lifestyle.
Since taking the plunge, Sophie Radcliffe, 30, has become an adventure blogger, motivational speaker, endurance enthusiast and model.
She has completed multiple triathlons, including crossing the red carpet at two Ironman races. She has cycled from London to Paris in 24 hours, and London to Amsterdam in 48 hours. In June, Radcliffe tackled the Chamonix’s Vertical KM, a timed race up a brutal 1,000 meter ascent on a 3.8km rocky mountain trail.
Her fast growing list of accomplishments also includes the first ever Alpine Coast to Coast, which she completed in August of 2014. To date, Radcliffe is the only person in history to cycle across the eight Alpine countries; Slovenia, Austria, Germany, Lichtenstein, Switzerland, France, Italy and Monaco, and climb each of their highest mountains in one grueling 32-day push. The Alpine Coast to Coast consisted of cycling 1,700kms, and 45,000m of elevation gain made by bike and by foot – a vertical climb nine times the height of Mt. Everest. Her husband, Charley, joined her on each climb and provided support throughout the exhausting days.
“It was the most incredible adventure where for an entire month, all I was doing was living in the now,” Radcliffe said.
Her web presence has attracted tens of thousands of followers, and led to partnerships with the likes of Adidas, Oakley, and Haglöfs. She has successfully created a platform, where she uses her passion for adventure to encourage and empower others to challenge themselves as well.
Starting at the Back
Radcliffe’s fitness journey had humble beginnings, but her drive and determination has propelled her to impressive heights.
Before beginning Challenge Sophie, she said, “I had no fitness background. I am not a natural athlete at all. When I first started, I couldn’t even run three miles.”
She may not have started as a natural, but her hard work has paid off, and this July she completed a 100 km milestone in 13 hours and 19 seconds. It was her first ultramarathon.
“Running is one of those things that I always thought I was really bad at. It’s now become a part of my everyday life and I love it,” Radcliffe said.
Running is only part of her endurance fitness resume. Two weeks after she completed The Alpine Coast to Coast, she tackled her second Ironman Wales. Widely regarded as one of the most difficult Ironman courses, Radcliffe affectionately refers to the race, which includes a 2.4 mile swim, 112-mile cycle and 26.2 mile run as a “complete suffer-fest.”
In her Challenge Sophie post, Why I Love Ironman Wales, she reflected on her motivation.
“I don’t want to just exist in this life, I don’t want to breeze through it surrounded by things that make me feel secure and safe. I live to question, to question myself and life’s possibilities.”
One of her first fitness loves is cycling, and it drives many of her challenges. While developing as a cyclist, Radcliffe was quick to emphasize that she hasn’t always been the strongest or fastest rider on the course. Many times, she says, she was so far behind that she was choking back tears of frustration.
These admissions are part of what makes Radcliffe so inspiring: She discovers her inner strength by being vulnerable and accepting the discomfort which comes with trying something new.
In her post, How to Train for Cycling London to Paris, she said,
“The first time I cycled London to Paris in 24 hours, I had been cycling for 6 months, had completed an olympic distance triathlon and cycled 60 miles, once. I was not a very strong cyclist! What I lacked in experience and fitness I made up for in determination and drive, and the mindset that anything is possible if you keep going, was what got me through it.”
Grit and determination has fueled each of this female adventurer’s challenges, and she embarks on each event with a goal of conquering herself by pushing past her comfort zone.
Training, Maintaining and Recovery
The preparation for a fitness challenge often presents itself as its own trial.
“When you train for a big event you have to make sacrifices, and that might be not going out with friends, or not having a drink. You are living a very controlled lifestyle,” Radcliffe said.
Discipline plays a major role in her ability to perform, but the other side to Radcliffe’s success is her willingness to embrace the moment, and savor her accomplishments. Her voice lit up as she talked about taking holidays, going out to dinner, and celebrating with friends. She said that letting your achievement sink in is “the best feeling ever.”
Radcliffe joked about some of her favorite ways to celebrate.
“If I want to eat brownies, I’ll eat brownies all day,” Radcliffe said.
The world is her gym, and even on rest days, she enjoys being out in nature, going for a swim or riding her bike. While some people treat lounging on a couch as their rest day, she prefers to keep moving.
“No agenda days” are one of the ways she makes time to ease the stress. Since she loves being on the go, Radcliffe struggles to make time just for relaxing, but says it is a work in progress.
A Passion for Inspiring Others
Encouraging others to begin their own challenges inspires her.
“When you are just beginning, the most important thing is to find something you love in fitness,” Radcliffe said. “First, find something that makes you happy. There are so many ways to get fit without going to the gym. It’s about finding the thing that works for you. Second is that it’s important to put yourself out there. Don’t sit around and wait for one of your friends to come and do something with you. Go out and find people who are already doing it, and go with them. Third, be really open minded. [Getting fit] is going to put you outside of your comfort zone. You’re going to be sweaty, you’re going to be tired, you’re going to go to new places, you’re going to do new things, and you’re going to be uncomfortable. You have to remember that everyone starts at the back, but don’t be scared of starting at the back.”
“Have the right support network around you and get the right people on your bus,” Radcliffe said. “When you try to break out of your normal life, a lot of people might criticize, or not understand that you are ready for something different. Some people will come with you on that journey, but others will find it difficult to understand. I would say to anyone who experiences that to know that it is normal and happens to a lot of people.”
Radcliffe’s advice on embracing goals and challenges rings true across many avenues. She used the job market as an example.
“People hiring want someone who is confident, goal driven, motivated, and resilient – how do you train for that?”
Her answer was simple: you train your mind by challenging and pushing yourself. Eventually, as you create memories of meeting your goals and learning self-reliance, you will also develop self-empowerment.
“So often in life, we want things to happen for ourselves, but whether or not it happens depends so much on another person,” Radcliffe said. “Whatever it is that we want, we place that responsibility on other people in our lives. Doing these challenges has made me realize anything that I want is possible, but I am the one that has to make that happen. It is solely my responsibility.”
It is no wonder Radcliffe has built such a following. Her inspiring words and example ring with a powerful truth; each person is capable of greatness.