In the mentally and physically grueling 42-day journey, I found out just how resilient I actually was.

By Jenny Davis as told to Ellie Trice
June 15, 2020
Jenny Davis

The passion I have for adventure began at an early age. Growing up on the island of Borneo, I spent much of my childhood exploring rainforests, backpacking through diverse landscapes, and developing a love for sports and outdoor activities of all kinds. Today, I'm a corporate energy lawyer in London, but I spend my weekends and free time camping and surfing around the UK, running half marathons, competing in triathlons, or planning for my next expedition.

This passion took on a new life when I was diagnosed with a benign tumor in my abdomen five years ago. After a painful surgery and treatment, I made the decision—while still recovering in a hospital bed—to apply to run the Marathon de Sables, a 155.5-mile ultramarathon through the Sahara Desert, starting in Ouarzazate, Morocco. I moved to Morocco to train and live in a tent among other female athletes from around the world, and ended up being the 16th female to cross the finish line after five days.

This experience inspired in me a desire to take even more chances. As an Atkins-sponsored athlete, I live a low-carb lifestyle that I’ve found has given me the energy to meet some of my greatest goals. I’ve since done ultras in arctic Sweden, Iran, and Scotland, climbed Kilimanjaro, and summited peaks in the Himalayas.

Jenny Davis

Much More Than a Side Hustle

Maintaining a career as a corporate lawyer while staying committed to these races certainly involves a great deal of negotiation along the way. Oftentimes, that means training at 5 a.m. before work, then again on my lunch break, and again in the eve­ning. But I’ve never thought of these adjustments as sacrifices, because this is truly what I want to do, and if you want some­thing bad enough, you’ll make it happen, no matter what.

Jenny Davis

The Thrill of the Unknown

I love everything about being high up in the mountains. Being in the greenery, in the margins, in the snow—wherever it is, as long as it’s an adventure. The planning and the logistics, of it all, just putting together these kinds of expeditions is exciting, but the excitement comes from being alone out in the elements.

Adventure to me is about being idle. That doesn’t mean you have to go on a huge expensive expedition—you can simply just set up camp in the wild close to home for the weekend. It's about getting outdoors and disconnecting from the pressures of mundane life.

Hamish Frost

Expedition: South Pole

A little over a year ago, I attempted to ski along the Antarctic coastline and through extreme weather conditions in hopes of reaching the South Pole. I dreamed of beating the world record for the fastest time (which was 38 days, 23 hours, 5 minutes for women), but my expedition was brought to an abrupt end due to the worst weather in Antarctic history, coupled with a painful bowel infection.

But I wasn't going to give up. In November 2019, I strapped on my skis and made my second attempt. This time around, for the first 500 miles, I was skiing at world-record pace. Then an injury, one they call polar thigh, set in. (The motion of skiing into a headwind or tailwind can compress your legwear, and if there you don't have enough insulation or any cold air gets trapped, you can suffer from polar thigh.) For me, it started as these small clusters of ulcers on my leg, which continued to get bigger and bigger over time.

One day, while traversing an ice field, I slipped and fell, splitting my leg open and joining all of the ulcers into one big one. It was truly the worst pain I have ever experienced.

After that, I knew there was no chance of staying on world record pace, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t going to reach the finish line. I don’t really know how I did it, but I skied the last 200 miles with the open ulcer on that leg.

In January, I finished my 42-day trek to the South Pole—completely unassisted, meaning I was totally alone, didn't use kites, or get to re-stock supplies. The moment I finally arrived, I realized just how resilient I was. I knew I would need to be good at pushing through pain and discomfort, but I had no idea it would be to that level. But to me, the injury was well worth the reward. I will have this huge scar on my leg for life, but I just don't care—I’m going to wear it with pride.

Shape Magazine, June 2020 issue


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