In 2016 I set off on a life changing journey across one of the most beautiful regions on earth (Scandinavia) in the name of charity, proving myself and inspiring others. What started as me joining an experienced trail runner on one of his journeys, evolved into a predominantly solo trip through 3,000 kilometres of unknown territory. I was to battle against expansive bogs and (at times) an unnavigable trail in Northern Norway, face my first ever stay in an A+E department (following the loss of half my blood volume) in Northern Sweden, I was to be almost killed (then arguably almost the cause of death) in a network of tunnels further South in Norway, I was to camp in temperatures of -10°C in Southern Sweden, and I was to battle snow in Denmark – the first in November, I am told, for many years before my arrival. Then there were the good bits, the scenery, the way Norway can make you say ‘wow’ every single day, the people who helped me through the tunnels, the lessons I learnt about myself and the friends I have made, most of whom I am still in contact with now.
It was quite the journey – and since my return I have been trying to put that whole thing into words as part of the third aim of my trip – to inspire others.
Below are the words I wrote about the trip before setting out on the trip. Hopefully, this will give you a flavour of what is to come, without spoiling how it played out.
What’s it all about?
My name is Sophie Rooney and following a series of recent lifestyle changes, I’ve decided it is about time I went out and did something big with my life.
As a result, this August I will be setting off on a 3,630km journey, in an attempt to become the first Female to run the length of Scandinavia. Slightly mad, but also hugely exciting!
Where has the idea come from?
In April, I got invited by a good friend to a ‘Yes Tribe’ meeting in Derby. Following a quick Google of what the Yes Tribe are all about (they are great – try a Google search of ‘say yes more’), I agreed to attend the talk, heading off to Derby that very evening. I went along with an open mind, not really knowing what to expect, and definitely not expecting to walk out having committed to ambitious and arguably slightly crazy plans. All I really expected was a refreshing pint with a good group of people.
The evening was mainly focused on a talk by a guest speaker, Aleks Kashefi (Barefoot Aleks Kashefi on Facebook). He has recently completed Land’s End to John O’Groats, entirely self-supported, running (in his words) fully bare (…footed).
Whilst others sat and gazed, apparently amazed by the fact someone could (and would want) to achieve such a thing, I sat there and contemplated how great it must have been to have done so, and how I could set about doing something equally as exciting.
It was then, following the talk, that Aleks mentioned his next adventure – running the length of the Europe on the E1 trail (all 7,745 km) in sandals.
Aleks describes the purpose of the challenge as a tool to change people’s perceptions, to help inspire people to take on their biggest dreams, to commit to real hardship and challenges, and to overcome a fear of failure with a want to do amazing things (amongst a few other personal reasons). And that was it.
I was sold the idea and the possibility to join part of this adventure suddenly became top of my to do list.
Let me interrupt. . .
I should explain here that this was a little out of character for me. I have always been an adventurous person, don’t get me wrong, but my life has previously been governed by a sense of ideals about what it is someone of my age should be doing.
I had got my A-Levels, completed an undergraduate degree, just submitted a Masters thesis and spent the past 12 years training almost every day in an attempt to become an Olympic kayaker. But something about this was striking a chord with me – the idea of immersing oneself in the outdoors, taking in every dimension of a country and achieving something barely anyone else has done was staring at me like this was something I was meant to be doing.
So that was that. In a room full of people I didn’t know, having just seen someone talk about a run they had done and a run they were yet to do, I’d made a decision to change my life.
I then built up the courage to announce this to someone, and ended up asking if I could join for part of the run. I left the pub that night having agreed to run Norway (and not having admitted that I was not in any sense a runner and had never attempted anything like a long distance run before this point).
Since that evening, the plan has developed somewhat and I am now – as has become clear – hoping to become the first female to have run the E1 trail along the length of Scandinavia – 3,630km in around 77 days.
The E1 Trail snakes from Nordkap in Norway through six countries to Palermo in Sicily. Whilst I won’t be aiming to make it all the way to Sicily, I aim to cover the trail through Norway (2105 km), Sweden (1200 km) and Denmark (325 km). To do this, I will be aiming to cover an average of 30 miles a day, carrying everything that I may need on my back.
This will, undoubtedly, be an unforgettable trip and the adventure of a lifetime. At the same time, Aleks and myself hope to raise a significant amount of money for three great charities, with an ultimate goal to raise over £10,000 for Stroke Association, UK Mountain Rescue and Thomas Thyer Foundation.
So, this is a challenge with a purpose of three parts. The first is to push myself to achieve something which I can really be proud of, and to create memories which will stay with me for a lifetime.
The second is to raise a lot of money for three very worthy causes, to make a difference to as many people as possible.
And the third is simply to inspire others to go out and push themselves too, and to spread the idea that nothing is impossible. One of my favourite quotes from Theodore Roosevelt fits perfectly here…
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.”
This to me, is something everyone can relate to. It’s about taking risks, having fun, and never giving less than 100% to the things you are passionate about.
I didn’t know it until recently, but this challenge has become that passion for me and I have made the decision to give it my 100% – and can’t wait to set off on August 1st!