A fortnightly blog

For those who have a keen eye and like a routine, you might have noticed that I didn’t write a post to my blog last week and it was the first time in almost 6 months that I hadn’t.  But I made the decision that I would start to post once every fortnight, for two main reasons.  Firstly, I am getting incredibly busy.  I wanted to make myself busier.  To set new goals and challenges and to make a positive difference to those who suffer from cancer.  I think I am doing that.  But with it I have made myself incredibly busy and almost everyday I am off there is something scheduled.  I am definitely not complaining about that because in a way that is what I really wanted.  But finding the time to write a blog post the last few weeks has been hard.  Secondly I don’t want this blog to become boring or repetitive.  It is an opportunity for me to convey to you the things that I am doing, the experiences I am having and how I view the world.  I want to keep it positive and current and I want it to be something that people take something from.  So I made the decision last week to turn to a post once every fortnight and I hope that will help me out with the two things I have just mentioned.

As I said, I am unbelievably busy.  Climbing my munros has taken a total backseat at the minute as my focus on running is becoming absolute.  The Stirling Marathon is next month and I know it is going to be one of the hardest physical things I have ever done in my life.  Getting the final few weeks prep done right is becoming more and more evident to me.  So for the next few weeks I will be doing a lot of running with a few easy bike rides in between just to spin the legs.

I am at the same time very conscious that the North Coast 500 will be upon me extremely quickly and that is probably going to top the marathon as the hardest physical thing I have ever done!  Most of the planning and booking for that is done now with a few more overnight stays needing to be finalised but that should be done this week.  We are looking into the possibility of getting a cycling kit made up with logos in order to bring attention to the challenge as we are doing it.  It will mean that I can help promote it as I am out on my bike prior to and following the event.  hopefully that helps raise awareness and get some more people on board with what I am trying to achieve.

This past week I have been looking along with a colleague of mine Steve, at getting some cycling kit made up for wearing whilst training and whilst taking on the NC500.  Hopefully it will help draw some attention to the challenge and spread the word a little further.  The email has been sent to the company and we have got a quote back for getting the kit made.  So once their graphic designer have transferred the designs and its all confirmed we should have some nice shiny kit coming our way!

A challenge in its self that in a way I never really quantified was all of the different challenges I have taken on and the different disciplines that are involved.   I can’t just prepare for the marathons and not do any cycling because my legs wouldn’t be able to pedal right on the bike.  Balancing the training I am doing whilst still preparing properly for each event is super difficult.  It would be much easier if I was just running or just cycling.  But I like a challenge and I guess I gave myself another one without realising.

Another injection was needed this week to make sure my vaccinations are all up to date for work.  That meant another dreaded trip to Aberdeen to get jabbed in the arm with a needle.  Aberdeen is a great city, but getting jabbed with a needle is pretty much my least favourite thing to do in the world!  But hey, I now need it for work and it means that I am good vaccine wise to travel anywhere in the world which is a good thing to know.  Work have a contract with ‘Charles Michies’ so we go to their travel clinic to be kept up to date.  It was a day out to Aberdeen so I guess there is a positive in there somewhere.  I’m getting better at the whole needle business though that’s for sure. A top tip: If you don’t like something, do it a lot!

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May is shaping up to be possibly the busiest month of the year for me so far.  I am flying on the 1st to Bristol to visit family who live in Swindon which is something I have been wanting to do for a while now and I am really looking forward to it.  I will be down there from the Monday to Friday flying back to Edinburgh on the 5th.  I will be home for the weekend and then on the 8th I will be travelling down to Hampshire for an exercise with the UKISAR team.  The exercise will last 3 days before we travel back up the road on the 12th.  I’ll then get a couple days break before I will be back in to work.

I have meetings with a couple different schools about the possibility of going to speak with their senior pupils about my challenge and all of the things that I am getting up to.  I really like sharing my experiences with people and allowing people to understand why I end up doing the things that I do.  I think it’s important to share knowledge and experience and essential that is passed onto the next generation of you adults who will so leave school in to the big bad world where they will have to find their feet.  I like to think that I take opportunities when they are given to me and that I work hard to make sure that I achieve them.  Too many people don’t take opportunities when they are given them and their lives could be incredibly different if they took a little more risk and really went for things.  At least that is my opinion and I think I might have said it before.

The next few weeks are certainly going to be busy.  But I am looking forward to the challenge.

“I’m not afraid of dying, I’m afraid of not cramming as much into my life as I should’ve done” – Stephen Sutton

 I hope you all have a great easter!

J.

Back to work

This week I went back to work after 12 days off.  I must admit that the first day back after being on annual leave is always difficult to get up for.  It generally means getting up at 0630 ish and I am not by any means a morning person.  I don’t think I really ever have been and I reckon it usually takes me a good hour to wake up properly.  It’s especially hard when the sun doesn’t rise until later which only compounds my problem of getting out of bed!

Winter is a season that I do generally enjoy however and in the past year I tried to make an effort to try and learn how to ski.  Whilst I am still very much a beginner I can actually turn and stop which for me is quite an achievement.  Skiing is something that I would like to get better at and I would like to get back out on the slopes sometime soon this winter.  I took lessons at the Snowfactor at the Braehead Arena in Glasgow which seemed reasonably priced and it gives you the chance to learn indoors on real snow.  I took the 4 hour fast track lesson which covers most of the basics and by the end of the 4 hours we were introduced to the main slope.  I definitely need a lot more practice if I am going to improve at all so a trip to one of the Scottish ski resorts or back to Snowfactor has to be worked into the coming weeks and months!  I am keen to go ice climbing again too.  I went ice climbing in Kinlochleven (a town near Glen Coe) a couple of years ago and I really enjoyed it.  I suppose its a somewhat strange sport to get into but the centre in Kinlochleven  is fantastic and there is also an ice wall at Snowfactor.  They are fairly accessible and I didn’t think that it was overly expensive!  Anyway, I have gotten sidetracked!

Having spent some more time looking at the North Coast 500 route I think I may make a trip up north at some point before the actual trip to get some scouting in on the roads.  I am really keen to get up there and cycle the pass over to Applecross which will be without a doubt one of the hardest climbs I have ever tackled on my bike.  Given that during the North Coast 500 I will be taking on that climb after around 100KM on the bike I reckon it is probably sensible to head up do some training on the roads on that area and take on the climb itself.  I think that will allow me to judge where my fitness is at and allow me to make any adjustments in my training plan that I need to.  My preparation for all of my different challenges is going to be really important especially the ability to recover quickly and tackle multiple long days of exertion.  The date for the North Coast 500 isn’t definite but I am aiming to ride it around the 8th of July.  My holidays for April and beyond should be released by the end of this month or early February at the latest and as soon as I have them I will be confirming everything in my diary.  I am really looking forward to being able to firm everything up and share it all with you.  It feels like a while since I decided to start this challenge and I told you all that I was just waiting on my holidays!  Unfortunately I am still waiting but it shouldn’t be too much longer now!  As the saying goes – ‘Good things come to those who wait’.  I really hope that this is true!

I am sure that you can all sympathise with the back to work blues and I do definitely experience them if I am honest.  But on the flip side, I am lucky to have a job that on the whole I enjoy and which has given me a number of fantastic opportunities.  They have been incredibly supportive from the minute that I told them about my plans and I am always extremely thankful for that!  This coming Saturday I am going to be doing a bit of work with Cancer Research UK as part of a press release for World Cancer Day on the 4th of February.  The day is billed as a ‘photoshoot’ but I just keep telling myself it’s for a few photos!  If you have ever met me you will know that I am by no means a model!  But I am keen to be involved and if it helps promote World Cancer Day and gets some more people on board and willing to support my challenge then I am all for it.

With World Cancer Day now fast approaching I would ask that you help support Cancer Research UK in one incredible ‘Act of Unity’ by purchasing and wearing a ‘Unity Band’ in support of those who have suffered and those are currently suffering from cancer.  The recommended donation is £2 albeit you can donate more if you would like (The pictures below shows what they look like!).    The more people get on board and help discuss cancer and it the need for continuing research and funding will hopefully bring forward that the day that we make all cancers curable.

Taking on the 3 peaks challenge is also going to form part of my summer.  Planning is in its very earliest stages but it is something that I definitely want to complete.  I think I might be able to convince some others to come along with me so we will maybe have a small team to attempt this challenge.  I reckon summer is the best time to go for it though using the longer days and nicer weather to our advantage.  Saying that, there is every chance that it could rain through an entire attempt during the summer, we’ll just have to take it as it comes.

Have a look out for the press release in the coming week with Cancer Research UK, hopefully it will help boost the reach of my challenge and help raise more vital money for this charity.

“Where there is unity there is always victory” – Publius Syrus

J.

Creating memories

phone-photos-762There are so many opportunities to create memories as we go about our everyday lives.  I have a huge number of fantastic memories from when I was growing up and I had the chance to travel to some amazing places and meet some incredible people.  What I have discovered recently is that I am terrible at documenting these adventures that I have embarked on.  As much as I can remember the experiences I have had, I don’t have photos or videos of these times.  I think I mentioned it in a previous blog post but as I start to get my challenges underway it is something that I really want to make an effort to do.  This is an amazing journey towards raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK and I really want to be able to look back at it and remember it all.

With the Inverness Half Marathon not too far off now I am looking to start making a vlog.  If you have never heard of a vlog it is short for ‘videoblog’.  I know that I write this blog once a week and there are a number of people who read it, but I know that not everyone enjoys reading and also that a picture can paint a thousand words.  So in making a vlog I will be able to physically take you along on this journey towards raising £1 million for Cancer Research UK.  It’s something that I have been putting some thought into for a while now and something that I am really keen to try and suss out.  I have absolutely no background in film or media and to produce a vlog will be a completely new challenge for me.  However, I think I have taken a lot on now so I probably need to stop giving myself new challenges for a little while and work towards the ones that I currently have set!  A vlog will give you far more insight into who I am, the things I get up to and allow you to follow my challenge in much more depth.

I am quite happy with how my blog is progressing though.  For someone who failed his higher english at the first attempt and scraped a C the second time round I am pretty pleased with the amount of content that I have been able to make.  I hope that you are enjoying reading it and understand how I am thinking about this whole thing.  English was never a great subject for me; I was always far better at physics and music – a strange combination I know!

I have received an invitation to attend an interactive day at Cancer Research UKs Beatson institute in Bearsden, Glasgow in April and I am already looking forward to it.  The day will give me the opportunity to see the impact of fundraising on research and meet others who are supporting Cancer Research UK with fundraising.

I am generally a quiet person and I just keep myself to myself.  This challenge is forcing me to get out and about, to speak to lots of different people and engage with people in a way that I don’t think I have ever done before.  I enjoy giving talks to large groups of people and trying to pass on advice and share my experiences with others.  I am lucky that I get to do this through my work.  This is something I would like to start doing more with my challenges in mind as a way of speaking about the things that me and my family have been through, how we dealt with them and why I am trying to raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK.  If there is a group that you think would like to hear about my challenges and how I approach my day to day life then please don’t hesitate to get in touch, while I am generally a quiet person I really enjoy speaking to people about my challenge and the things that I am getting up to.

With the weather here in Scotland now heading into deep winter I have set up one of my road bikes on my turbo trainer (a device that allows you to cycle on your bike while staying stationary) so that I can maintain my training on the bike whilst the weather is at its worst.  I always prefer to take the bike out on the open road, but from experience, cycling when the weather is really bad just isn’t worth it.  You end up spending the entire ride worrying about the bike going from underneath you on ice and when you are clipped into the pedals that never ends well!  With so much planned for this year the last thing I want is to get injured while training.

You may have noticed that I slightly rebranded my blog and have began using a logo that I designed in order to give my challenge a bit of identity.  It’s fairly simple but took me forever to make!  I am not particularly savvy at design – I’d love to be able to draw but I guess you can either be good at music or art, and I was good at music… At least that is what I am going to put it down to!  I hope you like it and as always if you have any suggestions of things to do or ways to improve it don’t hesitate to get in touch – positive criticism is always welcome.

This blog is helping me create memories though.  I have never kept any sort of diary before and while this doesn’t document every day of my life I think it captures the things that I am thinking from week to week and will be good to look back upon further down the line.  Whilst I think there are lots of opportunities for me to get better at documenting my memories, I think this is a pretty good start and I really hope that you all enjoy it and take a little something from the words that I write each and every week.  The support I have had has been nothing short of amazing and everyone who I meet has so many kind words to say.  I truly can’t thank you all enough for all that you have done to help me so far!

I think this entire experience is going to be one amazing memory!

“Ambition is the path to success.  Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in” – Bill Bradley

J.

Finding inspiration in others

img_0740“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much” – Helen Keller

I am in need of your help.  Approximately four months ago I made the decision that I was going to try and raise £1 million for Cancer Research UK and it is a decision that I am extremely glad I made.  I have taken time to evaluate my objections and set goals to help me on my way towards the £1 million mark.  But we are now truly underway and have approximately 9 weeks until I run in the Inverness Half Marathon, the first significant event on my list of goals and objectives along the way.

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I want to do my utmost and very best to help Cancer Research UK work towards improving the chances of survival for cancer patients and help maintain the rapid advancements in treatment and care for those who suffer from this disease.  I just need two minutes of your time to like and share my page and help spread the word.  The more people that we get on board and spread the word the better chance we have of helping to raise all of this money.  As a result we have the opportunity to make a really significant difference in helping Cancer Research UK.  If you can spare £1 then I’d be more than grateful and I know that Cancer Research UK are extremely thankful for every pound that is donated to them to help advance their research.

Cancer Research UK is a very big charity and they do receive a lot of donations; however we have to remember that the research into cancer is unbelievably expensive and they really do need every penny they can get to help fight this battle.  I can say first hand that their research has saved the lives of a number of my family members and the lives of a great number of friends as well.  I don’t think there is anything more cruel than becoming ill and having the ability to go about your everyday life taken away from you.  We all know that our time here is limited and cancer can take that away from people who are only just getting started with their lives.

I take a huge amount of inspiration from Stephen Sutton, a teenager who you might remember from ‘Stephens’ Story’ which followed him as he battled with terminal cancer.  Unfortunately Stephen lost his battle with cancer in 2014, but before he did he made a massive impact upon improving the way that people perceive cancer and how they go about their everyday lives.  There are a number of speeches that Stephen gave during his battle with cancer which I watch regularly and I would urge you to watch them on Youtube if you can.  Stephen often spoke of the true value of the number 86400.  If someone gifted you £86400 at midnight every night and told you that you had 24 hours to spend it before you were given another £86400, you would more than likely find a way to spend it.  What so many of us don’t realise is that we are gifted 86400 seconds every day to meet new people, appreciate those around us, to enjoy new experiences and appreciate the lives that we are given.  So many of us fail to spend the vast majority of those seconds that we are given and waste them away.

Stephen had a huge impact on me, at the time my mum was fighting with breast cancer and Stephen always had the ability to make you positive about the situations that life deals you.  I truly wish that I had had the opportunity to meet him and thank him for giving me an improved outlook on my life and a better appreciation for everyone around me.  I nominated Stephen along with many others for a ‘Pride of Britain’ award in recognition of everything that he did during his short but full life and was extremely happy when I heard that he was to receive one.  I just wish that he had been able to receive the award which was presented to his mum in his memory.

I doubt that I will ever be able to achieve in the way that Stephen did, but almost three years on from his death he is always in my thoughts as I set out to try and help finance new research into the disease that claimed his life.

“From someone who wants more time in this world, please don’t waste yours, you’d be amazed what you can achieve when you try” – Stephen Sutton

As well as trying to fit in my runs as I build up to the Inverness Half Marathon in March, I am going to be getting on the bike just about everyday in order to start putting the miles into my legs ahead of riding the North Coast 500 and then from John O’Groats to Lands End.  Ideally I’d prefer to get out on the road but for days when I am working and it will be dark before I am home I have a turbo trainer that I can use to keep logging time on the bike.  I think I may have a companion for the North Coast 500 in the form of a colleague whom I have worked with for almost the last 5 years and who works on the International Search and Rescue team with me.  I think it’s going to help a lot having Steve riding with me; I always find it easier to dig a little deeper when I am riding with someone else!  The offer to join me on any of my trips or outings is always there and if you fancy giving something a try and raising some money for Cancer Research UK I’d be more than happy to have you join me!

As I said at the start of this weeks piece, if you could spare me two minutes of your time to help promote what I am doing I would massively appreciate it!

Many thanks as always.

J.

Getting Started

Christmas has passed and I hope that you all had a great day!  Thankfully work was quiet and I had my meal with my family when I got in from work.  As always I received so many fantastic gifts and despite having to work it was a really good Christmas.  Hogmanay is this Saturday but I don’t think I will be up to too much due to being back at work on the 1st.  To me, Sunday the 1st is the true start.  As much as we have talked about doing this and setting out a bit of a plan, the start of the new year to me marks the beginning properly.

Getting started is often one of the hardest things to do.  Talking about doing something is pretty easy, but committing to it and putting it in motion is the complete opposite.  I’ve spent a couple if months looking into things, picking out the events that I would like to take part in and speaking to people about what I would like to do.  Now we have to get going and for me the New Year signals the crossing of that start line.  While there is an enormous mountain laid before us to climb, it can be climbed and we will hit that target of £1 million.  I know we will.

The 4th of February every year is World Cancer Day and if you can help me promote what I am doing and the incredible work that Cancer Research UK do I would be extremely grateful.  Cancer Research UK run a campaign of wearing a ‘unity band’ on the 4th and I will be taking part this year.  They have also asked if myself and mum would be happy to be part of an article talking about what mum has been through and what it is I am trying to do.  Hopefully that will help earn my challenge a bit more support.  I feel that I am continually asking the same people to support me and I know that so many of you have already donated very generously to what I am doing.  I’d really like to try and grow the support in the early part of the year and encourage more people to donate a little to Cancer Research UK.

I can’t remember if I had mentioned in a previous blog post about the possibility of going to visit one of the experimental cancer research facilities in Edinburgh, in order to better understand what the money is actually used for and to gain an understanding of the kinds of research that are being done into cancer.  I am really keen to do this and meet the people who are doing this amazing research and saving so many lives.  I have no idea when that will be but it is something I would like to try and fit in.

I have been speaking with my dad about him supporting my cycling ventures, I know for sure that the last thing I will want to do after cycling 100 miles on my bike will be standing cleaning and servicing it.  My dad works as teacher and I will need to try and plan these trips during his holiday periods.  But that shouldn’t be too hard I don’t think, it might mean that I have to swap a couple shifts at work but we will get that organised.  The North Coast 500 will probably be the first cycling trip of the year and I reckon will likely be around late spring.  I have spent this week doing a bit more planning for this trip and realised that google lied to me a bit.  It told me that the second day of the trip (Applecross to Ullapool) would be around 85 miles or 136 KM in length, it is, but to follow the North Coast 500 route you must travel via Gairloch (a town my dad used to teach in actually!) which adds quite a bit of distance and climbing to the day.  Day 2 of this trip will actually be 117 miles or 187 KM in length.  I think this is probably going to be the hardest day of what I am hoping will be a 5 day trip.  This will come the day after a particularly hard climb on the road over to Applecross.  But it is what needs doing so we will get it done I am sure!  I have put the routes for days one and two below along with the elevation charts so you can see what the route looks like if you weren’t sure.  I think this trip will definetly serve as pretty good training for John O’Groats to Lands End and I think it will also do my legs good for climbing Kilimanjaro.

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I’ve got a trip to Kilimanjaro picked out so booking that is going to be a priority in the coming weeks.  It is my intention to get back out on the hills soon, it has been a manic few weeks with lots on and I am conscious that I haven’t managed to get out on the hills as much as I would have liked.  The other thing which is now an added issue is that the Scottish winter has arrived and the weather on the hills is far more volatile than usual.  I’d therefore ideally only head into the mountains with a climbing partner, purely for safety and I hope you all appreciate that.  As much as I want to raise all this money and complete as many challenges as I physically can I’d rather not kill myself in the process!  The mountains in Scotland are often a far more dangerous place than people give them credit for and unfortunately deaths are reported every year which are caused by a number of different factors.  I love climbing in Scotland in the winter and I reckon we probably we have some of the most pristine mountains in the world, but I don’t love it enough to take massive risks.

“There’s a way to do it better – find it” – Thomas A. Edison

Its just about time to start off the new year and get going proper, I am really looking forward to it all now.  I hope all have an enjoyable Hogmanay and get a good start to the New Year.  Thank you all for your support, it is hugely appreciated as always!

J.

My ambitions. My ideas.

In order to raise £1 million I am going to have to diversify my activities.  Running one half marathon won’t get me there I don’t think.  Nor will running a couple.  I need to take on every possible opportunity that I get and learn how to promote them successfully.  That means giving myself more work, but I kind of accepted that when I started this whole thing anyway.

I’ve had so many ideas of different events to take part in and to run.  One of them which is quite high up on my list of which will require a lot of organising is a charity ceilidh/auction night.  Ultimately it has to make sense financially, I don’t see any point pouring vast amounts of time into organising an event like this unless it is going to raise a significant amount of money for charity.  It will only raise a fraction of the total amount however every little helps!  I think it would be good way of bringing people together who have been affected by cancer, to celebrate what they have achieved and have a good old laugh.  For anyone who isn’t Scottish, a ‘Ceilidh’ is a traditional gathering where people join together in song and dance in order to have fun and make a fool out of themselves, at least that is how it was described to me!  If it happens you should come, they are always great fun and everyone usually has a great time!  I’ll keep you posted!

Another idea of mine that I am working towards is starting to make videos that document this journey.  I know that I have started this blog, but I understand that not everyone enjoys reading.  I also believe that a picture paints a thousand words and using video will allow me to physically show you all what I have been up to.  Over the past year I have begun watching YouTube more and more, to the point where I often watch YouTube over regular TV.  There are some amazing creators on YouTube who produce work that is as good, if not better than TV.  I am by no means saying that my videos will be able to compare to some of these creators, but I hope to bring you all along and help share this whole experience more.

I am finding that this whole blog and charity work pretty fun so far!  It has been a lot of work, trying to get things started, to speak to people about what I’m trying to do and why.  I’ve come to realise that when you tell someone that you are trying to raise £1 million for charity they will be slightly surprised.  I suppose it’s not the average target to set.  Although if everyone was the same the world would be a pretty boring place I think!  People often take a bit of convincing, but I think I am being fairly successful at encouraging people we will get there.  We are still quite small at the minute and there is a huge amount of work still to do, but I have faith and there is plenty positivity in me still!

Christmas will soon be upon us and the New Year hotly on its heels.  I think that once the 1st of January arrives that I will feel that we are on our way.  I’ve been working on this for a couple of months now and I think it looks like we haven’t made much progress.  What I am trying to remind people however is that I could never expect to raise this money overnight, it’s a long-term goal and one that will take time to achieve.  Stick with me and we’ll smash the target, I’m sure of it!

My sister is home in a couple of weeks for the first time since August which I am quite looking forward to.  She is studying for a Masters in Interpreting and Translation in French and Spanish and has spent this semester in Lyon, France.  I haven’t had the opportunity to go out and visit Lyon unfortunately which is something that I did want to do.  Maybe in the future, it’s another place to add to my long list of places that I would like to visit.  She’ll be home a few days before Christmas and will be home until mid January I think before she moves to Madrid, Spain for her second semester.  The life of a university student!  I definitely want to visit Madrid though and I have a block of annual leave in February so hopefully I will get some free digs for a week.

Unfortunately, my annual leave for April onwards won’t be released until January at the earliest and at the minute I haven’t booked my Kilimanjaro trip or put my John O’Groats to Lands End cycle firmly in the diary (these being the two biggest undertakings).  There is a trip to Kilimanjaro that I have my eyes on and I am tempted to book it and take a gamble.  Worst case scenario is that I have to try and move my annual leave or swap my shifts with colleagues which can be done, it’s just an extra thing to think about!  I think I am going to have to make a decision soon however, places are limited and I want to ensure that I definitely get to go and climb this mountain.  In terms of travel vaccines I am lucky that through my work with the International Search and Rescue team I am vaccinated to travel pretty much anywhere in the world.  Although I am due a couple of boosters which I will have to get sorted out soon!  Needles are my arch nemesis, but sometimes you’ve got to do things you hate in order to have the experiences that you want most.

I will let you know as soon as the dates are firm and the trips are organised!

“When something is important enough, you do it even if the odds are not in your favour” – Elon Musk

If you haven’t already, please donate today.  Just follow the link:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

J.

Why Kilimanjaro?

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As some of you may know, one of the major challenges which I am aiming to take on as part of my mission to raise £1 Million for Cancer Research UK is to climb Mount Kilimanjaro.

Mount Kilimanjaro is located in Tanzania, Africa.  It is the tallest mountain in continental Africa and also the tallest free standing mountain in the world.  Kilimanjaro stands at 5895m or 19341ft and was first climbed in 1889.  To try and give that some kind of context, Ben Nevis the highest mountain in the UK stands at 1345m or 4411ft.  In mountaineering terms Kilimanjaro is a somewhat simple mountain to climb as it doesn’t require a great deal of technical climbing and rope work.

Kilimanjaro is a massive challenge however and something which I am not taking lightly.  The biggest danger with climbing a mountain of that size is the possibility of developing acute mountain sickness (AMS) or referred to commonly as altitude sickness.  AMS typically occurs above 2400 meters of 8000ft.  Unfortunately there is very little way of predicting how someone will cope at altitude.  In order to minimise my chances of developing it I will need to try and train and eat foods that increase my red blood cells that will help carry the oxygen around my body.  Ben Nevis is the tallest mountain I have climbed to date and is a little more than half of the altitude where most people begin to experience the effects of AMS.

Another crucial part of gaining success in high altitude climbing is acclimatisation.  You have to take time and allow your body to adapt to the lowering levels of oxygen in the air.  If you don’t give yourself time to acclimatise then your body will find it significantly harder to function at altitude.

It is my intention to climb Kilimanjaro with guides from a British based mountaineering company who will hopefully help guide me to the summit.  The climb will take around 14 days, possibly slightly less.  I am hopeful that my holiday allocation for next year will be available soon and I can look at booking the trip and getting it firmly added to the diary.

It has long been an ambition of mine to climb Kilimanjaro and I think it fits what I am trying to achieve perfectly.  It will be an immense physical and mental challenge which will be one of the most difficult things I have ever undertaken.  There are a number of other mountains around the world which I am keen to attempt, but, given my lack of experience at these altitudes I felt it sensible to take on a mountain that had a slightly lower technical skill requirement.

I firmly believe that whilst it is important to set challenging goals for yourself they must also be realistic ones that you can achieve.  I think it would be pretty foolish to say that I was going to summit Mount Everest at this stage.  Whilst it would be an incredible experience to attempt and achieve the summit of the worlds highest peak I do not have the experience nor the fitness to attempt a mountain like that at the present time.  I think Kilimanjaro is a good starting point for a first high altitude summit.  We must all be dreamers however.  Maybe one day I will attempt Mount Everest, I suspect it would more than likely be as a way of raising money for Cancer Research UK.  Climbing mountains like that is also horrifically expensive and would require massive corporate sponsorship.  But that’s an idea for the future and I shall concentrate on Kili for the time being!

We must dare to dream and dare to be different.  If you have a positive approach you can achieve anything.  This is something that I genuinely believe in.  I know so many people who have positively fought cancer and won their battles.  We should take their positivity and thirst for life as an inspiration and use it to drive ourselves forward and achieve the things we never thought we could.  Why?  Well the more people engage in research and push the boundaries of what we believe to be possible, the sooner we will beat cancer and prevent the suffering of patients, their families and their friends.  The day  we finally beat cancer is coming and we can all help by doing our little bit.  By donating even just £1 we are helping bring that day closer and that excites me.

Nothing is impossible when we put our minds to it.  No task is too big or too complicated.  Sometimes things take time, but that does not make them impossible.

“It always seems impossible until it’s done” – Nelson Mandela

Donating is quick and easy just follow the link below:

https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/JED-SMITH1

J.