By Rachel Lankester, Mutton Club Editor

I think of myself as a life-long learner. Especially when it comes to learning about myself. I found the Yorkshire Three Peaks Challenge to be one of my biggest life lessons yet. Would I be able to rise to this particular challenge?

I was woefully under-prepared for this 24 mile trek up and down the three highest peaks in the Yorkshire Dales and I found it incredibly tough. There were many times when I wanted to give up. There were many times when I found myself triggered, even taking me back to humiliating experiences at school no less!

rise to a challenge

First lesson was not to let anyone else decide the speed at which I would be proceeding on this challenge! Letting someone else decide meant we left in the last group to start the route (the fast walkers) putting me behind from the get-go. 

Second lesson was not to try something like this with people half my age. My young adult step children bounded off like gazelles while I was mistakenly trying to pace myself  – unaware there were time constraints on the challenge!

Being told I was slow and should get a move on took me right back to school. Stupidly, that’s where I went in my head.

rise to a challenge

To being the dumpy one always the last to be picked on any sports team. To being the one who always came in last in any race. It wasn’t long before I actually was the last person in my entire challenge group because we’d started last – with the fast walkers! Such humiliation!

I descended into a shame spiral and tried desperately to channel Brené Brown to get me out of my little pot of self pity. (3 Things You Can Do To Stop A Shame Spiral) But it didn’t work and I allowed it to color the whole damn day!

rise to a challenge

The weather throughout was pretty atrocious too. Wind, rain and hail. Treacherous ascents and descents, once going up while hundreds of walkers were coming down the same narrow pathway. Not much social distancing there!

Claustrophobia and vertigo, my two old friends showed up. At one stage I sat on a rock to do some box breathing just to get my heart rate back under control!

I so desperately wanted to complete the challenge no matter that it was incredibly hard. But as I thought I was getting near my goal, I discovered just before the Ribblehead Viaduct, that I’d missed the cut off point to be allowed to continue the route and do the final peak.

I’d completed two peaks but it would be dark before I could complete the rest of the walk and the third peak. We’d been supposed to do the walk in June but Covid put paid to that. In September we had a lot less daylight and the organizers didn’t want to risk us climbing in the dark.

rise to a challenge

We should have started a lot earlier. Duh! So then of course I had to find someone to blame and my beloved, who’d designated us as fast walkers, got an absolute and ongoing earful. Not my finest moment.

I was devastated. (Could I look any more grumpy?) Very sadly I allowed myself to be driven back to the starting point.  I felt terrible. Failure was added to my pity pot. I’m not good with failure!

rise to a challenge

But once we were back at the car park, one of the organizers found me and said, there’s a group of us going up the final peak Pen-y-ghent right now. Do you want to come with us? Yes!

So I got in the van (the rest of the family left me to it and went back to our warm, dry AirBnB) and we drove to the starting point of climbing the mountain. I went up and down the last and final peak arriving back as the day turned to night. Here’s me blurred but much happier at the top of Pen-y-ghent.

rise to a challenge

I didn’t complete the full 24 miles of the challenge but I completed 20 and all three peaks. And that’s good enough for me.

I also didn’t make it absolutely to the very top of the last one but I went as far as I could, before scrambling over the final rocky ascent would have kicked my vertigo into full gear with visibility up there still atrocious as well as wind and hail.

So I reached my summit and I was very pleased with that. I have learned so many things about myself this weekend. Lots of things I need to process. Lots of reactions under duress I’m not particularly proud of.

rise to a challenge

I think I was saved from my ignominy by a podcast! I had serendipitously stumbled upon an episode of Dr Rangan Chatterjee’s Feel Better Live More podcast with Peter Crone. It made such an impression on me that I’d shared it with my beloved and on the drive up to Yorkshire, we were listening to it for the second time.

In How To Break Free From The Limitations Of Your Mind they talk about how triggers can be seen as gifts. When we react in a way out of proportion to the situation in which we find ourselves, that’s an opportunity to be curious about why that’s the case and to do something about it.

“Peter believes our subconscious dialogue – the self-talk that’s rooted in childhood conditioning and that we may not even be aware of – gives us a certain idea of who we are. By questioning this, and realizing it’s not the truth, we can find freedom from suffering. We can get to know the triggers that make us feel less-than, and break free of our limitations.” 

Dr Rangan Chatterjee

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

William Shakespeare

There was so much for me to learn about myself during and after this event. It was a real test both physically and emotionally. My legs were so painful afterwards, but I had a big grin on my face and my head held high.

I believe it’s so powerful to set ourselves challenges. To push ourselves but still work within our limitations. And to be curious about our responses to life and challenge those too. Doing this particular challenge would have been hard 20 years ago. But I probably wouldn’t have had the same drive and determination then.

rise to a challenge

The recovery time is longer now but I’m totally ok with that! I hope to live off the adrenaline for several weeks at least!

And yes, my beloved is still speaking to me… That podcast did wonders!

You may also like: Finding The Magic Outside Your Comfort Zone

Rachel Lankester is the founder of Magnificent Midlife, author, host of the Magnificent Midlife Podcast, a midlife mentor and editor of the Mutton Club online magazine. After an initially devastating early menopause at 41, she dedicated herself to helping women vibrantly transition through the sometimes messy middle of life, helping them cope better with menopause and ageing in general, and create magnificent next chapters. She’s been featured in/on BBC Woman’s Hour, The Huffington Post, The Sunday Times, Thrive Global, Authority Magazine, The Age Buster, Woman’s Weekly, Prima Magazine, eShe, Tatler HK and Woman’s Own amongst others. She believes we just get better with age. Get her book Magnificent Midlife: Transform Your Middle Years, Menopause and Beyond which was recommended in the New York Times.

Last Updated on February 2, 2023 by Editorial Staff

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