Ahead of her, 715 miles she planned to cover in less than 38 days, 23 hours and 5 minutes, in order to break a Guinness World Record set by a previous explorer. On the sled she would pull, over 170 pounds heavy, she had clothes, food, water, a tent, a sleeping bag, backup gear, first aid supplies; all that she would need, she hoped, to survive the multi-week polar trek. But this story began far before:
Photo credit: JennyDavis.co.uk
Jenny was never an athlete, though she and her family always loved sports and adventure.
Her childhood was spent scouring rainforests; swimming; playing basketball, netball, and cricket; reading about female explorers.
“There’s some insatiable interest within me to explore. To not only physically explore, but mentally explore where my own capabilities lie.”
That urge, that readiness to go, would surface on weekends and at random moments. Midweek she was a London based corporate lawyer. After hours, she camped and surfed along the West Coast of Scotland, cycled, ran half marathons and triathlons, and in 2009 climbed Mount Kilimanjaro on an unsupported expedition.
The greatest challenge she would face, however, that life-altering moment, did not arise on a mountaintop, but in a hospital bed. In 2015, Jenny was diagnosed with a large benign tumor in her abdomen, which led to a painful course of treatment, surgery, and a long recovery period.
“[…] being confined to a hospital bed and the months of recovery that followed are the toughest months I’ve faced. Not being able to exercise or even take long walks was incredibly difficult for me.”
Photo credit: JennyDavis.co.uk (Marathon des Sables)
But Jenny was not a quitter. She saw an opportunity: using hospital Wi-Fi, she filled an application for the toughest race in the world:
The Marathon des Sables, a 155.3-mile race through the Sahara desert under grueling conditions. That would be her test of resilience, her reason to get out of bed.
Training for that race brought Jenny back to health. Not only did she complete it, but was the 16th female to cross the finish line 5 days and 50 degrees later.
After that, her path was clear. She quit her job in pursuit of the next adventure: a 143-mile run through Arctic Sweden. From boiling temperatures to frozen fields, mountains, and lakes, and she did it. Then on to the Iran Silk Road Ultramarathon, where she not only took part in the first race in 38 years allowing women to compete with men, but was the first female to cross that finish line 155.3 miles in the Dasht-e-Lut Desert.
Other adventures followed, but the most important were those she undertook off the trail; her exploits were inspiring women, she also wanted to empower them. She became an ambassador for a charity called Free to Run, whose objective is to boost female participation in sport. With them, she launched the first female running club in Iran.
She also set up the first Women’s International Team for the Marathon des Sables, as well as an organization called All Out Law to provide legal counsel to race organizations. Her business, Kit Jam, helps athletes find the kits that match their specific needs for their races.
Last, as an ambassador for Women in Sport and the BBC’s Children in Need, she raises funds to increase the participation of women and children in sport and outdoor experiences in and beyond the UK.
Photo credit: JennyDavis.co.uk
Jenny’s message is one of exploration and adventure, but most importantly, one of resilience:
“No matter what you’re going through, no matter what it is, it too will pass. You just can’t give up. If you do that then only positives can come from the end outcome as you know you gave it your all.”
Jenny’s journey through the Antarctic was brought to an abrupt halt nineteen days in, when a combination of extreme weather conditions and nausea and stomach pains caused her to be airlifted to Chile, where she was hospitalized.
“Even when it became clear that I wouldn’t make it, with yet more snow and bad weather on the way, I couldn’t just stop. I couldn’t give up simply because I’d no longer reach the Pole or achieve a new speed record. The idea of quitting was even harder to stomach than carrying on.”
She did not quit. You did not quit, Jenny. Antarctica is waiting, and both it and you know you will return to it when, mentally and physically, you are ready.
In the meantime, now out of hospital, Jenny is training for the 5 day Volcano Ultramarathon running race in Costa Rica!
Follow Jenny on her adventures here.