My Polar Dream – book review

I first came across Jade Hameister‘s story at the National Young Leaders’ Day in Melbourne last year. On a day full of inspirational speakers, she stood out and captivated both the young people and adults in the audience. At the age of 14, she became the youngest person to ski to the North Pole from outside 89 degrees. At 15, she was standing on a stage in front of a few thousand people, recounting her adventures, filling us in on her future plans and sending a very clear message – young people and, specifically, young women can achieve great things. In particular, her #bravenotperfect message struck a chord with the 4 school captains I was with and it was something we talked about and took back to our classroom.

Later that year, her adventures continued with a trek across Greenland and, earlier this year, with a trek to the South Pole, allowing her to claim the ‘polar hat trick’ and become the youngest person to do so (amongst many other ‘firsts’).

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do not go gentle into that goodnight

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Having followed her journey via Instagram, I was keen to read the book of her adventures, released recently.

My Polar Dream‘ is a very easy read but definitely not lightweight, especially when you pause to consider the enormity of Jade’s achievements and what it took for her to get there. She is very lucky to have had supportive parents and the means to undertake such treks but neither of those factors lessen what she accomplished. To train for and complete such lofty goals (while also getting on with the business of being a teenager) tells a lot about her character and mental strength.

The book takes you through the 3 journeys and gives you insights into her days on the ice with nothing off limits. There’s discussion about her difficulties with finding appropriate places and conditions to go to the toilet and how it felt to be sharing time and a tent with Dad – probably not something I could have done for that long at that age. Jade also ensures she tells it how it was – not all sunshine and butterflies. It was hard, as if that word could possible describe the enormity of exactly how challenging it was. There were tears and parts where less resilient people would have given up but she is made of much tougher stuff and focused on achieving her goal.

Most of all, Jade’s personality and character really shine through. She is such a positive role model for other young women in an era where there is so much superficiality and focus on how people look on the outside, rather than who they are on the inside. The story of how she handled some internet trolls is particularly telling.

My Polar Dream‘ is definitely worth a read, whether you ever intend to embark on a polar trek of your own or not. And Jade’s TEDx talk is also worth watching and sharing for its powerful message – “What if the focus shifted from how we appear to the possibilities of what we can do?

Book review – 401: The extraordinary story of the man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever

My running is more ‘pause’ than running at the moment – having my wisdom tooth out has temporarily sidelined me, just as I was getting back up to speed after my sprained ankle. However it has given me to time to read about running and I stumbled upon ‘401, The extraordinary story of the man who ran 401 marathons in 401 days and changed his life forever’. The title initially caught my eye for 2 reasons – 1) running 401 marathons sounds kind of crazy (but my kind of crazy!) and 2) I can definitely relate to marathon running changing your life. If running one changed mine, I was curious to know how it felt to run a further 400.

The man in question is Ben Smith who decided to tackle the issue of bullying by running a really long way and raising funds for 2 charities, Stonewall and Kidscape. This book takes you through not only the challenge itself but also weaves in his story which led him to do such a thing in the first place. Ben suffered terrible bullying throughout school, affecting him in a myriad of ways and it was this that ultimately led to him wanting to take action.

It’s a very easy read and Ben is a easily relatable person, whether you’re a runner or not. In fact, one of the things I really liked about this book was hearing about some of the people who ran with him throughout the challenge, many of whom had never run such distances before. As is so often the case, this story is one not just of changing his own life but inspiring others to do the same. I think the glow and positivity you get from running is not only addictive for those of us who do the running, it’s also very tempting for those who see it and wonder whether they can have some of that too. (Short answer – yes, you can.)

Another interesting feature of this book which worked quite well are the way it’s not all told by Ben – various other key players add their own anecdotes throughout, giving a different perspective and a sense of how much support is needed for such a large undertaking.

If you’re after a book about technique and tips on running form, this is not it. Much of the running talk is background to the other stories woven in and that is actually one of the strengths of this book – it’s a geniune reflection from a geniune person that will resonate whether your favoured distance is 5km or an ultra.

How to run 100 miles

I have absolutely no interest in running an Ultra. Ever. I know I once said this about a marathon but this time, I really, really mean it. Deep down, I always wanted to run a marathon, just didn’t think I could so was too scared to say it out loud. But an ultra. No.

However I love hearing about them, reading about them and watching stories of other people having done them. Ultra runners are a special type of crazy and one I can identify with. They get that it’s about a journey and not a destination (or a finish time) and that the trail isn’t something predictable, but that’s where the joy lies.

I came across this film today and adored it from the first minute. It’s a story of 2 guys who, despite not being runners, decide to train for and run an ultra. They are incredibly likeable and relatable and the lessons they dole out are as applicable to those of us tackling distances shorter than ultra length. It chronicles their training and what they learnt along the way. We’re then treated to their journey through the event itself, with the constantly ticking clock getting closer to cut off time (as their goal is to finish within the 36 hours).

A fantastic documentary, whether you’re intending to run an ultra or not. 😁