Karen Darke inspirational hand cyclist

I recently heard Karen Darke giving a truly inspiring speech at a Yes Group North event.  Karen had a rock climbing accident age 21, breaking her back, and now uses a wheel chair.  In itself this part of her story is an outstanding read in her book ‘If you fall … it’s a new beginning’.

What interested me was how she used a wheel chair … to cross 1,200 miles of the Himalayas, take six weeks to cross the Greenland ice cap and now become a leading contender for gold medals in the hand cycle time trial and road race at the London Olympics 2012.

Here is a world-class athlete who has developed her abilities through hard work, currently training 30 hours a week. I find it difficult enough to pedal a bike in the conventional way and can’t comprehend how hard it must be to propel a hand cycle at 30 kph.

As part of the British Cycling squad she has the training programmes, testing and conditioning you would expect of an elite athlete. For me the most remarkable part of Karen’s story is how she motivates and inspires herself.  This is what sets world-class performers apart from the rest of us.

‘How …. Now…..Wow’

Here is one of Karen’s notable mantras. (I’ve taken some liberties with the interpretation so we can all use it)

Karen sets herself seemingly impossible challenges.  Then asks, how?

Break the challenge into the positives like; how will I benefit, what do I love doing, how would I feel if I was successful?   Weigh this against the negatives, time, effort needed, and the like.  Suddenly, the impossible starts to look possible.

Now. Let’s do it! Not next year, or sometime in the future.  Commit.  You won’t achieve anything if you just think something might be a good idea.  Get out there and do it.

Wow.  Tell everyone what you are going to do.  Soak up motivation from their amazement that you are going to do something so challenging.  Wallow in the wow. Then WOW yourself when you reach your finish line.

Karen is an inspiration; she shows us all what can be achieved.  Look out for her winning gold at the Paralympics next year. www.karendarke.com

Response from Karen

It was interesting to read your 'How? Now. Wow!' interpretation. Pretty accurate to my idea, except you made the How? much more positive (focusing on how great it would be) whereas I tend to focus on how difficult it's going to be, asking myself 'How on earth???!'. So, I shall adopt your interpretation more from now on! ... return to bike

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