A 59-year-old mother who won a BBC TV show more than two decades ago is gearing up to celebrate her 60th birthday by completing a 125-mile trek.
Gill Watson, from Chellaston, Derbyshire, has spent years maintaining her fitness, competing in a 36-hour running race and appearing on Ninja Warrior UK.
But for her 60th birthday next year, she plans on facing her biggest challenge yet – spending 10 days in the Panama jungle completing a trek.
Speaking to DerbyshireLive she said: “It’ll be tough but it’ll be a laugh. I’m looking forward to it. It’s just a great experience. It’s the people. It’s a journey. It’s fantastic. You just see places you’d never see otherwise.
The Panama Coast-to-Coast Challenge, as it is officially known, involves 100 miles of walking and 25 miles of rafting over just ten days.
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Gill, who is travelling through expedition company Rat Race Adventures, is taking on what is described as one of the “hardest adventures”.
The website says those travelling with the group “must be able to trek for 12 hours a day carrying a 20-25kg pack and be confidently self-sufficient”.
Gill, who works as a fitness instructor by trade and is also a member of the Sinfin Running Club, only started running in her 30s.
“You’ve just got to keep going and look after your body. That’s my only secret. I keep very fit. Keeping yourself and your joints strong is important as you get older. I joined CrossFit recently which is the best thing I ever did. I should’ve done it years ago”, she said.
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“A good mental outlook helps as well. You can be as strong as an ox but if your head’s not in the game and you give up easily it won’t work. I’ve always been pretty good at focusing and getting things done. Ticking challenges off piece by piece.”
Gill intends to complete the Panama challenge with friends she met on previous Rat Race trips, including the Race to the Wreck desert run/cycle in Namibia and the Mongol 100 trek across a frozen lake in Mongolia. She knows how difficult this one will be, though.
She said: “It’s about completion, not competition. But it’s going to be pretty bad. The jungle environment is very, very, very harsh. At every step, something will be trying to bite you, sting you or scratch you. Plus, the mud is legendary and the heat is a lot to put up with. The jungle is one of the hardest environments to cope with. I’ve been to the jungle before and don’t really want to go back but I want to do the challenge.”
Gill will be sponsored by Derbyshire outdoor clothing brand Alpkit on her journey. You can donate to her Children with Cancer fundraiser here.
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