1 woman. 9 months. 18,000 miles.
What will you be doing on Friday, March 4th, 2016? Hmm. I’m not sure yet, either. But I know that Adrianne Hill will step outside her house in Northampton, Britain and go for a bike ride. She’ll go for a quite some time. In fact, she’ll go until she goes across the entire earth.
Here’s Adrianne’s take on the day: “A couple of people have said, ‘Why Friday the fourth of March?’ And I said, ‘No reason. It just felt right.’”
Not your typical Friday. But Adrianne will have been long planning for this day, scanning maps and planning routes, cycling through the countryside of her homeland to train her body for this global challenge, raising money for charities, and wondering who she will meet along the way on her SUP/Bike/Run World Record attempt in aid of Mind and Cancer Research UK.
With hair still wet from cycling, Adrianne caught up with me on Skype. After talking about Nashville (the TV series) and her hopes of finding American barbeque, Adrianne shared more about her motivations for the journey, her battle with cancer and depression, inspiration from the London 2012 Olympics, the environment for outdoorsy women in the UK, and her quest to raise £100,000 for Mind and Cancer Research UK. Adrianne’s enthusiasm is unbridled and contagious. You may just find yourself wanting to join her for part of her journey across the U.S.
Check out the interview below:
So how did the idea come about?
Literally I was sitting on my sofa, just thinking, “Ah…I just can’t do this anymore.” I’ve worked since I was 16 and put myself through university while working, so I’ve never been able to travel, I’ve never had a gap year. The first time I’ve been outside the country in 10-odd years was last year. I just thought, “No, this isn’t me.” ‘Cause once you get caught up in the rat race, you sort of lose it a bit, don’t you. I just thought to myself, “I need to do something now. I can’t keep doing this– I’m unhappy.”
At that point I’d been diagnosed with depression because of work-related stuff. And over in the UK, work at the minute and mental health is a big deal because a lot of people are getting ground down, so they’re really unhappy. My old work place–they would make you do quite a long week anyway, but then you’d be made to do extra hours unpaid, so I was doing so much work. And it’s just crazy. I just thought, “Right, I want to do this now, and I want to raise lots of money and I want to support these two charities that mean so much to me.”
I’m a cancer survivor, as well, so there’s that. Yeah, that’s just sort of how it came about. And for the first time in about five years, everything seemed right again. It just seemed so right. Ever since I made that decision, it’s been nothing but planning and telling people. I just can’t wait. I’ve never done anything like this before. I’m an outdoors-type person but I’ve never done anything like this. So I’m like, “Well, if I’m gonna do it, I might as well do it around the world.” (Laughs)
Yeah, just go big–immediately. (Laughs)
Yeah, go big! Go bold! (Laughs) I write a Women in Sport column, and I’m a journalist by trade. I’m a windsurf coach as well. I just thought, “Right, let’s do this. Let’s prove that women can go out there. We’re not feeble things.” I just wanted to go for it. So far the response has been so positive–from friends and family and further afield.
That’s awesome. I feel like it takes so much motivation and commitment to just go for it. It sounds like you’re just getting started with the adventure.
Yeah, I think it’s been two and a half months now into the planning. So I’m leaving on Friday the fourth of March from my hometown. I’ve got all of the UK leg done, and I’ve just started on the East Coast of America. I’ve got all of New Zealand and Australia done, which is great. In the U.S. I’m starting on the East Coast, and I’ll be doing the Northern Tier up to Canada. I just can’t wait. I love America, and I’ve never been to Canada. Every time I’ve been to America before, everyone is so lovely– they’re just so chill and cool– and I’m just like, “Ah, brilliant. Cool. Okay.”
I’m a keen cyclist, but there are massive differences between cycling and then getting panniers on the bike and searching for lightweight tents and all this stuff I’m gonna need. I’m just loving it. I think it’s gonna be the start of something really good. It already is.
It’s a lot of logistics. I’ve got loads of maps, and I’ll post parcels ahead of time, stuff like that. So I’m crowdfunding for the initial trip costs, but I’m literally trying to do it on the bare minimum that I possibly can. So there’s gonna be a lot of camping, hoping to see a lot of food markets and pick up some cheap stuff. How do you eat on a massive trek?? That’s the one thing I’m still trying to figure out. I’m a very small person that eats a lot.
Hmm. [On my cross-country cycle] we did a lot of sandwiches–ham and cheese, turkey and cheese, PB and Js, and pasta on a campstove. It would be like, ride 15 miles, eat a sandwich. Repeat.
Are you planning on having a support team or anything?
No, no official support crew. What I really want is for people to join me along the way, whether it be for a mile or 100 miles. I want them to join me, get involved, share their own stories. Parts are gonna be by myself, I’m hoping that people will join me for parts, and I’m hoping to just meet some incredible people. Not to get too emotional, but as a cancer survivor and knowing what it’s like–I think anyone that’s been touched by it or anyone that knows somebody that’s going through it–support is so vital. And when I had it, I didn’t realize that support was there, so I’m hoping that anyone that’s going through cancer or mental illness, that they’ll come and say hello and we can chat and share experiences.
For such a big journey, I want to keep it as unplanned as possible, because I feel that that’s the best way to do these things. Just to get your goal points and go for it. It’s a lot of planning, but still trying to keep it as loose as possible. The funny thing is, I’ve no sense of direction, and I kid you not when I say that. I get lost going in a straight line. My sense of direction is terrible. So how I’m gonna get across the world, I don’t know. A good GPS signal. (Laughs)
Maybe you could get sponsored by a GPS company. Something like: “Garmin. Helping Adrianne Hill get across the world.” (Laughs)
Are there places you’re worried about traveling?
I think I’m most worried about places I’ve never been…China, Malaysia. I don’t speak the language, and I don’t know anyone there. I’m hoping it will be okay. I’m worried about Russia, as well, but that’s for totally different reasons. I always get scared by Russia. (Laughs)
So your journey will involve cycling, running, and stand up paddleboarding. Tell me about the water part!
Basically what I’m gonna do is plan different bits around the rivers. What I’m hoping will happen, is I will pitch up my stuff with someone, and then I’ll either go back or they’ll take it on. Then I can SUP down that way. Australia, New Zealand, for the bits that I’m gonna SUP, I’ve got somebody coming with me. And when I leave my hometown, I’ve got somebody that wants to do this place called Lake Windemere, so they’ll be able to look after the stuff. So it’s literally gonna be as soon as people want to join me, and I see somewhere cool, I’ll be like, “Right, can someone hold this? I just need to go take care of some SUP business.” That way I can just crack on with what I’m gonna do. And then I’m always gonna carry an emergency kit on me, just in case anything does go wrong.
I’m planning Canada at the minute, and a lot of the SUP places are being really helpful. So it’s just epic. I’m like, “Yeah. Ace. Thank you! Look after my stuff!” So that’s how that’s gonna happen. If I end up getting a support crew, depending on sponsors, then obviously they can take the kit. That would be a dream scenario, but I’m not relying on a support car. It’s gonna be complicated in parts, but the idea sort of works with bike/run. Triathlons are really big in Britain, and recently they’ve done different ones- like cycling, SUP-ing and running. So I just times-ed it on a global scale, with all of the distances matching the distances of a triathlon here.
That’s awesome. What’s the environment like in the UK for women in the outdoors?
I think it’s really building. I think there’s always been sort of a simmering of people wanting to get involved. But I don’t think they know just how much is out there. So I’m hoping that by doing this, it will sort of inspire people and they’ll be like, “Oh, I can do this!” ‘Cause I think I get sucked into my little bubble, being friends with so many sporty people– sailors and windsurfers and so on. I just think it’s normal, but it’s not normal.
I know so many people who go to work, go home, watch telly, go to sleep, get up, go to work again– and that’s what they do. But for me, I get up, do some yoga, go for a bike ride, go to work, this that and the other, and that’s what I want people to get involved in more and more. I think some professional athletes see food as fuel, as a performance type. And I don’t necessarily think that’s the best way to go. I read a really interesting article about how people who listen to their bodies are healthier. I don’t think that the way the UK is at the minute with people’s lives is healthy. ‘Cause you get up, you commute to work, which causes stress, you’re in an office all day with air con and halogene lights, the food choices are processed, then you go home, another commute, which is stressful. By the time you’re finished you’re too tired to do anything. So I’m hoping that this challenge will make people see that you can go do this cool stuff and you can incorporate it into your everyday life. I think after the London 2012 Olympics, we’re really lucky in terms of having some really strong female elite athletes to look up to. Really strong.
And that’s amazing, because I don’t think before 2012 that a lot of women saw sport as a career option. And I think it’s opened a lot of women’s eyes to what is out there and what they can do, which is incredible. I was one of them– I was definitely inspired by the London Olympics. I was already working in sport, but the Olympics really cemented it for me.
I’ve been told that other countries are more outdoorsy, so I’m really looking forward to that. I really want to see how other countries do it and hopefully bring some inspiration back to my hometown. Where I live, I think I’m quite lucky, because I’m in a little village surrounded by countryside. So everyone’s quite sporty, because if you’re not sporty, then…you know, you’re just wasting beautiful countryside. (Laughs)
Can you describe the countryside around you?
It’s either completely flat or suddenly you’re going up massive hills and then down again. I’m right in the middle of the UK and there’s every terrain possible. I cycle down old railroad tracks, off-road, ‘round the reservoirs and lakes, then I’ll go on the road, and it’s just glorious…you just look and you see fields for ages and it’s just stunning. I think my top favorite place that I’m looking forward to going is Norway, because I’ve heard that the scenery is just incredible. Ah, I just can’t wait. I’m a proper like, country bumpkin. (Laughs)
What kind of journalism have you been doing and what’s your take on women in the media?
I was a BBC journalist, and I always wanted to do different stories, like more outdoors stuff, but it was always football. And I felt like, “Ah, I don’t want to write about football!” So I’m hoping that I’ll be able to meet some really cool outdoor athletes, as well, while I’m going around. That would be really cool.
Now I write my column for my hometown, which is great, and I can do a lot through there. But on an international scale, not so much. When I was at the BBC I did everything–radio, TV, writing, producing, reporting, presenting–you name it, I’ve done it. Incredible time, met some really incredible people. And I was really good at my job. But it’s just not for me. I think I’m more of a freelance writer than I am a journalist now. If I was able to document this adventure and sort of provide a little handbook for women back in the UK, that would be amazing….
Wow — you’ve got really excellent biceps. You’ve got brilliant arm definition!
Haha–do I? Well, thank you. (Really I was thinking this in my head.)
I’m really hoping that when I get back, that my body’s going to be like a goddess. Toned perfection. I think my quads are gonna be massive. Running is painful, though. That’s the bit I’m most scared about. Everyone keeps saying to me, “Wow. A global challenge! That’s gonna be hard.” I’m like, “No, running’s going to be hard.”
Did you grow up doing sports or was that something that came later?
I’ve always been a really independent person. Apparently when I was a child, nobody could tell me what to do. They tried to put me in dresses and stuff and I was like, “No, no.” I used to run around in my dungarees, helping my granddad with gardening, all that kind of stuff. My granddad was quite influential in my life. Anything I did, I did it with him. When I got to school, I was the only girl in the football team. Then I did county hockey, athletics, swimming, tennis, netball… rounders, and I also rode horses and did ballet.
Then I was diagnosed with cancer when I was 9. I was a really good horse rider and I love horses. But where they found the cancer- they think it was trauma-related linked to squeezing on the saddle all the time. So literally just bad luck that the cells were already there, and it was just the constant bashing of the saddle that activated them. So I’ve never been able to ride a horse properly again. And I had to teach myself to walk and run and all that again.
For somebody that was so energetic, it was really hard, but I just did it because I wanted to. The doctors were like, “Okay, we’ll never tell you that you can’t do something again because you’ll just go off and do it.” I was like, “I know!” So I’ve always been sporty, and I find that if I don’t do sport, I get really low–just so agitated…and bored. So I’ve got a mini-set-up in my living room. My little gym. If I ever get fidgety at home, I’ll just do hula hooping or weights. I windsurf and SUP. The thing is, I don’t really run, so running’s going to be hard for me because my leg hurts physically from when I was ill. So I’m doing a lot of training, building up muscle.
It sounds like you have been through lot already in your life. Toughness.
People often laugh at me, because I’ve got smile lines, and I’m constantly smiling and laughing. I always say to people, “Look, once you’ve experienced near-death, you appreciate everything. Absolutely everything. You get one life–go and live it.” I just thought to myself, “If I was to get hit by a bus tomorrow, I have not done everything I want to do. I haven’t done it.” This challenge is gonna tick off a lot on my bucket list and it’s gonna be frickin’ awesome.
The charities are so supportive, as well. They’re so on board and happy that a woman is really going for it. So that’s great. I can’t wait. Sometimes I wake up and go, “What the hell am I doing? Why have I done this?” And then other days I wake up and go, “Why isn’t it the day yet? I want to leave!” (Laughs)
It’s gonna be the adventure of a lifetime.
It is incredible. I think that’s why I like Misadventures Mag a lot– ‘cause there are so many interesting bits and pieces on there about incredible women doing incredible things. If you have an idea, just go and do it. The only person that can get in the way of you is you, if that makes sense. It’s the fear that comes into it, but if you overcome that fear, then you can just crack on and do it.
There’s quite a number of my friends that follow you guys on Twitter. There’s definitely a female following in the UK.
I love that.
I think there’s a lot of pressure on women at the minute. There’s a massive conflict between the career, the family woman, how you look– are you too fat or too thin, do you work too much, women are always bossy they’re never firm, that kind of stuff. I just think, life is too short, just do what you want to do and don’t worry about what other people think. Because once you’ve gone, you’ll come back and just feel amazing. And probably the people that were a tad negative will be like, “That’s incredible.”
I read this amazing cycling blog from this guy, actually, and he was like, “Yeah, I sort of left and it was brilliant. And then I came back and people were telling me about whatever they had done holiday-wise. And all I was thinking was, ‘You have not gone ‘round the world.’” (Laughs) And that’s just that little thing inside your head, you can say, “Wow, I did that.” And don’t get me wrong–I don’t think it’s gonna be easy at all. I’m not living in some sort of world where, whooo, everything’s sort of bubblegum and pink and fluffy. It’s gonna be tough, but it’s those challenges that are gonna make it so amazing. I can just imagine myself standing on a hill that I’ve just conquered going, “Yeah!! Woohoo!” (Laughs)
And how cool that in our time, you can do that and then share that experience instantly with people around the world??
I can’t wait to show people. I’m not a routine kind of person. A lot of people call me a bit of a hippie, a tree hugger. Everything I do is just “body is my temple” kind of thing. I love nature — I love it, I love it. So I just think, “Wow, I’m gonna see all this cool stuff.” I can’t wait. I can’t get the smile off of my face, talking about it.
What I keep saying to people is “I don’t know if I’m going to come back to nothing, or I’m going to come back to everything. But I know I’m going to come back different in such a good way.”
To support Adrianne on her journey, check out her website.