Ultimate Hell Week with Sarah Thomson
In Phase Two Training in the Royal Air Force – Previously Snowboard and Surf Instructor
Sarah, could you tell us a little bit about what you’ve been up to over the past few months?
The last few months have been a complete flip in lifestyle for me. I went from traveling as a surf and snowboard instructor and presenting on kids TV (Bear Grylls Survival School – CITV) to fully emerging into a military lifestyle.
It began when I took part in BBC2’s Ultimate Hell Week. A two week process that took place under South Africa’s scorching sun. 22 athletes of varied backgrounds were put through the selection process of six different Special Forces units to see who would make it to the end. I was fortunate enough to make it down to last two people, then pipped at the post in the final selection task. It was ridiculously mental but I absolutely loved every second of it. Following that, I set off on a successful record breaking run then continued to travel though Indonesia, France and Portugal, surf coaching, right up until I joined the Royal Air Force two months ago. I will continue my training with the RAF to become a Physical Training Instructor for RAF personnel of all trades.
How did it feel to make it to the final two?
Incredible! My one aim and main focus throughout was to never quit. I always thought there was a chance I could fail the training but just wanted to get as far as I could. There were so many times I thought I had made a mistake that would see me off but just kept driving forwards to make it to the end. When I crossed the line on the final task I was so content that I would have been equally as happy with 1st or 2nd.
How do you train for something like this?
Ha, ha, good question.!You can never prepare for the sleep deprivation; that was the hardest part for sure. The heat made it tricky, especially because I had just come from the snowy mountains of Canada, making the change in temperature around 60 degrees celsius.
Ultra marathons are great preparation for anything because they are by far the toughest mental and physical challenge. If you can run an ultra, you can do anything!
Physically I train in water, snow and land so I think having diversity in endurance and strength helped also.
Tell us a about how you got to where you are now with your career?
The honest answer is to make sure that you keep creating opportunity, even before it arises. I remember being told so many times that ‘good things come to those who wait.’ I hate that saying. Maybe a few things might come to those who wait, but great things come to those who set out and search for them.
Most things that I have done, from TV, to event funding, to jobs, training etc. have all come from hunting down the right people and asking for help, training hard so that when that important race comes up, you’re ready, and ultimately volunteering yourself for anything and everything to make yourself available for all the amazing things we have the opportunity to do.
Have you always been driven by physical and endurance challenges?
Yes! For some reason I always loved the pain cave. I think the sense of achievement you get at the end of an endurance challenge is unbeatable. Knowing that you have pushed yourself mentally and physically further that 90% of the world ever will in their lifetime is a great feeling.
I think humans are capable of some immensely incredible things and the thought of pushing myself more and more to see what I can manage to do in this life time excites me beyond words.
After the Ultimate Hell Week show, I needed a new challenge, so I set out on an 870 mile, solo, self supported run along the Wales Coast Path, sleeping under a tarp and living off berries from the bushes and freeze dried ration packs. 36 miles a day (with 60lb of kit on my back) and 97,869ft of elevation. Later I broke the current record by 16 days, setting a new world record of 23 days.
Do you still manage to fit in time to surf?
There is always time for surfing! Living by the sea helps as you can jump in when ever. I have learnt to be the absolute optimist with conditions as I can’t afford to leave out the days where the conditions aren’t great any more. I don’t get to surf every day like I used to, but every single gap I get off work and any other happenings, I’m straight on a plane and in the water from sunrise to sunset!
What advice would you give to anyone reading this who would like to follow in your footsteps?
Create opportunity then grab it firmly with two hands until it’s rinsed dry.
Find out what your passion is and make sure you focus every bit of energy into making sure you get to do as much of it as you possibly can.
Set goals and have ambition. If you do this you will never get bored or lost.
Remember that happiness in the most important in life and that once you have it, remember what it is that made you happy and never lose it!
Be kind to people and stand up for everything you believe in.
Lead a life you will look back on as a old man/woman and think that you couldn’t possible have fit in more than what you have.