Posted on June 03 2015
To celebrate Women's Sport Week, this week's Wednesday Woman is the incredible Shona Thomson. Shona is the first Scottish, and third British female to run a marathon on every continent, and join the Seven Marathons Continents Club, which includes the remarkable Ranulph Fiennes.
Last year, she went on to complete the North Pole Marathon and in doing so became one of a handful of women worldwide to have run marathons on all Continents and at the North Pole. Read her incredible story here:
Bardega: What were you like as a little girl and when did you get into running?
Thomson: I've always been quite driven and outdoorsy. At six, I climbed my first Munro and at seven, my parents dragged me up the West Highland Way (97 mile walk in Scotland). I also did a lot of running at school; mainly cross country as I was never very good at sprinting!
Bardega: You previously worked in banking - what was it like as a female in a male dominated industry and what made you transition?
Thomson: To be honest, working in a male dominated industry never bothered me. Both sexes have their strengths and weaknesses. I think all teams work best with a healthy combination of personalities, skills and characteristics. Yes, there were egos but you get that in sport too.
Bardega: What made you challenge yourself to run in every continent and how has that been?
Thomson: Well, I've always liked to push myself and I have always loved running. Initially I started running again after university as an antidote to office life. I ran my first marathon in 2010 and things just grew from there.
I read about the Marathon Grand Slam Club, which involves running a marathon on all seven continents and the North Pole. I decided that I wanted to join the handful of women globally that have done that.
Bardega: What has been your lowest moment and how did you push through it?
Thomson: There are been plenty tough times, both physically and mentally. I would say that injury and burn out are two of the hardest things to deal with. I have had a few cases of nasty shin splints. Of course, as most runners ignore medical advice, I carried on running and put myself on crutches for a month.
I’ve had Osgood-schaltters disease and bone bruises and been written off for months. I’ve lost most of my toenails, which is the ultimate running badge of honour. I’ve had nosebleeds on runs. I’ve fainted and vomited yet I still go back for more because it gives me such incredible satisfaction. I don’t call it crazy, I call it passion. However, you just have to learn to enjoy the setbacks too, otherwise you'll be miserable a lot of the time.
I think the key to everything is not being afraid to fail. No one ever gets anywhere if they sit in their comfort zone. It’s also important to find a goal you’re passionate about and commit to it. Life is not linear and the chances are you’ll have a lot of rough times too, but so does everyone. I have learned to be more patient and flexible; you have to be in order to deal with injury, setback, mid race cramps and nausea!
Stubbornness, or I prefer to call it determination, is also critical if you want to do something. I think a short memory (to forget the pain), a sense of humour, persistence and tenacity are also key qualities.
You’ve also got to learn to be resilient; to bounce back from bad runs and disappointing performance. Most of all, you just need the ability to handle pain and keep going!
Bardega: What's your proudest achievement?
Thomson: I'm proud of my running achievements - being one of less than twenty women worldwide to have done what I've done. However, I don't see my achievements as different to any other runner who sets and achieves goals every year.
Running in Antarctica was a very special experience. In fact, there is barely a day that passes that I don’t think about that race, which speaks volumes and is more than I can say about most things in life. The absolute unconditional support and spirit of the supporters on the Comrades route was very moving. Crossing the finish line in Vietnam was a pretty special feeling too.
Bardega: As a female role model, what/who inspires you?
Thomson: I'm not sure I'd call myself a role model. I'm always inspired by injured service men and women who rebuild their lives and go on to complete the most amazing feats of endurance.
I feel lucky to have been able to run all the places that I have, and very privileged to have met so many interesting and inspiring characters.
Bardega: What advice, if any, would you offer a younger Shona?
Thomson: "Don't be worried about what other people think of your decisions. If you want to try something, just give it a go!"