Girls aside, the other thing I found in the last few years of being at school, was a quiet, but strong Christian faith - and this touched me profoundly, setting up a relationship or faith that has followed me ever since. I am so grateful for this. It has provided me with a real anchor to my life and has been the secret strength to so many great adventures since. But it came to me very simply one day at school, aged only sixteen. As a young kid, I had always found that a faith in God was so natural. It was a simple comfort to me: unquestioning and personal. But once I went to school and was forced to sit through somewhere in the region of nine hundred dry, Latin-liturgical, chapel services, listening to stereotypical churchy people droning on, I just thought that I had got the whole faith deal wrong. Maybe God wasn't intimate and personal but was much more like chapel was ... tedious, judgemental, boring and irrelevant. The irony was that if chapel was all of those things, a real faith is the opposite. But somehow, and without much thought, I had thrown the beautiful out with the boring. If church stinks, then faith must do, too. The precious, natural, instinctive faith I had known when I was younger was tossed out with this newly found delusion that because I was growing up, it was time to 'believe' like a grown-up. I mean, what does a child know about faith? It took a low point at school, when my godfather, Stephen, died, to shake me into searching a bit harder to re-find this faith I had once known. Life is like that. Sometimes it takes a jolt to make us sit and remember who and what we are really about. Stephen had been my father's best friend in the world. And he was like a second father to me. He came on all our family holidays, and spent almost every weekend down with us in the Isle of Wight in the summer, sailing with Dad and me. He died very suddenly and without warning, of a heart attack in Johannesburg. I was devastated. I remember sitting up a tree one night at school on my own, and praying the simplest, most heartfelt prayer of my life. 'Please, God, comfort me.' Blow me down ... He did. My journey ever since has been trying to make sure I don't let life or vicars or church over-complicate that simple faith I had found. And the more of the Christian faith I discover, the more I realize that, at heart, it is simple. (What a relief it has been in later life to find that there are some great church communities out there, with honest, loving friendships that help me with all of this stuff.) To me, my Christian faith is all about being held, comforted, forgiven, strengthened and loved - yet somehow that message gets lost on most of us, and we tend only to remember the religious nutters or the God of endless school assemblies. This is no one's fault, it is just life. Our job is to stay open and gentle, so we can hear the knocking on the door of our heart when it comes. The irony is that I never meet anyone who doesn't want to be loved or held or forgiven. Yet I meet a lot of folk who hate religion. And I so sympathize. But so did Jesus. In fact, He didn't just sympathize, He went much further. It seems more like this Jesus came to destroy religion and to bring life. This really is the heart of what I found as a young teenager: Christ comes to make us free, to bring us life in all its fullness. He is there to forgive us where we have messed up (and who hasn't), and to be the backbone in our being. Faith in Christ has been the great empowering presence in my life, helping me walk strong when so often I feel so weak. It is no wonder I felt I had stumbled on something remarkable that night up that tree. I had found a calling for my life.
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To me, my Christian faith is all about being held, comforted, forgiven, strengthened, and loved-yet somehow that message gets lost on most of us, and we tend only to remember the religious nutters or the God of endless school assemblies. This is no one's fault, it is just life. Our job is to stay open and gentle, so we can hear the knocking on the door of our heart when it comes. The irony is that I never meet anyone who doesn't want to be loved or held or forgiven. Yet I meet a lot of folk who hate religion. And I so sympathize. But so did Jesus. In fact, He didn't just sympathize, He went much further. It seems more like this Jesus came to destroy religion and to bring life.
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I mean, in the last few months alone, I've been pinned in a big set of white-water rapids, been bitten by an angry snake in a jungle, had a close escapewith a big mountain rockfall, narrowly avoided being eaten by a huge croc in the Australian swamps, and had to cut away from my main parachute and come down on my reserve, some five thousand feet above the Arctic plateau. When did all this craziness become my world? It's as if - almost accidentally - this madness had become my life. And don't get me wrong - I love it all. The game, though, now, is to hang on to that life. Every day is the most wonderful of blessings, and a gift that I never, ever take for granted. Oh, and as for the scars, broken bones, aching limbs and sore back? I consider them just gentle reminders that life is precious - and that maybe, just maybe, I am more fragile than I dare to admit.
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Juice Plus+ is great stuff that I have used through all of my expeditions. What I like about it is that the research behind it is so strong. It is 100% natural, is whole food based, and I love the fact that it provides raw, anti-oxidant fruit and veg in a capsule form. For me it fulfills a key part of my nutrition, training and recovery needs.
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Many people find it hard to understand what it is about a mountain that draws men and women to risk their lives on her freezing, icy faces - all for a chance at that single, solitary moment on the top. It can be hard to explain. But I also relate to the quote that says, Iif you have to ask, you will never understand.
I exercise about 40 minutes a day, and I'll run one day and do circuit training the next day. I live in an area where there are brilliant hills and mountains, so I get a good hill run with my dog. At home, I'll do the circuit training with old weights, along with pull-ups in the trees and that sort of stuff.
When I take kids into the woods, I tell them, "What we're going to do today is going to be incredibly dangerous." And you just see 20 smiles go up. "But, we're also going to learn to look after each other, who to work together and who to understand and manage that risk." That's what it's about, you don't empower kids if you don't expose them to risk.
I started to get so many letters from unlikely people; a single mum going, "I watch your show, I'm not into survival, but I hold down four jobs and I get it when you say it's about persistence and putting a positive attitude into things during difficult times." That for me was a great liberator to realize that the show isn't about me running around, jumping off stuff and flexing muscles, it's about inspiring people. That makes me really happy.
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The difference between ordinary and extra-ordinary is so often just simply that little word - extra. And for me, I had always grown up with the belief that if someone succeeds it is because they are brilliant or talented or just better than me... and the more of these words I heard the smaller I always felt! But the truth is often very different... and for me to learn that ordinary me can achieve something extra-ordinary by giving that little bit extra, when everyone else gives up, meant the world to me and I really clung to it...
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