Post Challenge Reflections

Claire and Pam recently completed an epic challenge to run 15 off-road marathons in 15 National Parks during a month in September. This equated to running a distance from London to Loch Lomond in Scotland (over 400 miles) and climbing Ben Nevis 12 times. Not content to simply run, they carried out Science experiments on route and wrote blogs about their experiences. The logistical, mental and physical challenge they set themselves was immense and bought them close to breaking point at times. However, their positive mental approach and excellent teamwork got them through.

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Psychology played a massive part during this endurance challenge and they worked hard together to develop strategies that would outplay the many mind games that they encountered. They made a pact to keep the slowest person in front and when someone was suffering mentally or physically, they took the lead and control of the map. The sense of responsibility they got when having to take a lead role helped them to suppress any pain or negative emotions.

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The only exception to this was when Pam put herself through the sugar experiment. Having predicted the catastrophic outcome of taking a sugar only breakfast prior to starting the days’ activities, Claire was tasked with taking control of the map and Pam. Pam went from being exceptionally bubbly with a spiking heart rate to suffering roaring headaches as she went through the pain of the sugar low. Pam said that on reflection this was one of the worst things that she has ever done in the name of Science!

When asked what their favourite park was they both struggled to answer. They loved the variety of the different climate, topography, geology, flora and fauna in each park; and how much this had influenced the lives of the people that lived there. Both having studied Geophysics at the University of Liverpool, they are very aware of how nature’s forces impact people and how societies achieve most when they work with their surroundings rather than battle against them. This was particularly prominent at Pickering, where careful land management of the rivers catchment area had helped to prevent flooding of the town below at the end of last year.

In addition to the differences within the parks, they also enjoyed exploring the similarities between them. Many of the parks have extensive areas of peat moorland and are working hard together to preserve this natural store of carbon. Many are also looking at renewable energy solutions within their park boundaries; the New Forest and Pembrokeshire coastline both provide many excellent examples of this. There were many surprises during their adventure but some of the most memorable had to be the height of the cliffs along the Exmoor coastal path and how temperature and relative humidity are so closely linked in the mountains. Rising to over 400 metres in height in places, the Exmoor cliffs are the highest sea cliffs in England and Wales and gave them a marathon to remember.

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They are both very grateful to all the support they got on route and for their family, friends and mentors for instilling in them a love for the great outdoors. Having driven from one National Park to another, run across or around them in such a short time frame, learnt so much more about the Science that drives them, they feel privileged to have seen the United Kingdom in a new light. Their final thoughts echo the comments of the many people they met on route.

“We are all very lucky to have access to these amazing parks which teach us so much about how the Earth works. We must all do our bit to inspire the next generation to protect and cherish them. No amount of money can buy the feeling you get after a long day’s run or walk in one of these magical places.”

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If you would like to hear more about their challenge and the Science experiments they carried out on route, read the rest of their blogs or attend one of their talks at the NERC Into the Blue Showcase at Manchester Airport on Tuesday 25th and Friday 28th October (http://www.nerc.ac.uk/latest/events/blue/).

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