After the sudden death of a dear friend in 2008, Katy Willings entered the world of adventure. Her friend had entered into the Rickshaw Run in India through a quirky company called The Adventurists. Katy thought the idea was ridiculous but ended up taking her friend’s place. At the end of the Rickshaw Run, The Adventurists announced the Mongol Derby, the world’s longest horse race. Interested in horses, that peaked Katy’s interest and she entered in the inaugural Mongol Derby and there began her endurance career.
Since then, Katy has joined The Adventurists and embarked on a number of incredible adventures including taking antique motorcycles across the deepest lake in the world in the middle of the Russian winter for the Ice Run and learning to ride a para-motor for the Icarus Trophy.
With the experience of great tragedy, Katy decided to live in a way that did her friend justice. That began with the Rickshaw Run. Crossing India in a rickshaw was the perfect way to experience the country. “It’s like being in a computer game,” Katy added. “All life is out there on the road with you.”
Brilliantly fun, but wildly unreliable is how Katy describes driving a rickshaw. This just makes it more of an adventure. You’re going to have to get out of your vehicle and talk to people because you won’t have everything you need to make it to the finish line, Katy related.
The Adventurists often go by the mantra that ‘If nothing’s gone wrong, it’s all wrong’. This is a fantastic modus operandi for any true adventurer. You can’t prepare for everything, so why not embrace the obstacles as they come?
Grow an Adventure Attitude
Just 40Km from the finish line of the Rickshaw Run, Katy’s rickshaw was hit by a truck. Katy and her friend got out of the rickshaw alive but not completely unscathed. No one understood how they were able to walk away from the accident. The lucky pair felt like someone decided it wasn’t their time yet. Almost at the finish, Katy decided to plug on and deal with the emotional and physical trauma once they crossed that line.
At the end, half the people were talking about the accident and the other half were talking about the Mongol Derby. With all the adrenaline in her system and living after a brush with death, Katy enlisted herself in the longest horse race in the world.
This adventure was a great leap forward in self-respect for Katy. She hadn’t thought she was a great navigator, mechanic, negotiator or anything really. Katy had always seen herself as a customer. Paying someone to learn surfing or going on a skii trip. Achievement came from learning from world experts and putting the hours in. Adventures were a different way of thinking. It was about getting out there and being an amateur. Katy said, “That’s what adventure means to me. It’s an attitude more than a specific task.”
See the Opportunity
Because it was the inaugural race, no one knew if the Mongol Derby would be possible. There were so many unknowns that Katy and the other racers stopped thinking about it. They prepared where they could and dealt with things as they came up.
Katy went from being there to win a race to being there to experience something special in that amazing country with amazing people. It felt like an absurd, dangerous challenge that they were all in together. It was an opportunity, not a race.
The Mongol Derby was a mix of glorious isolation and team work. Katy rode 100-160 Km a day finishing in 9 days. To cross a country with a horse was an entirely new experience. Katy noted that after the race you wash off the dirt, treat your wounds, and feel a rush of seeing the world differently.
Explore as an Amateur
Don’t be afraid to not be the expert. This is one of the big things Katy learned as she began to take on adventures. If you think you have to be good at something to be allowed to be involved, you’re wrong. It’s fine to do things just for pleasure and that’s why you should be doing things anyway.
‘Think of the adventure as the vehicle rather than the goal,” Katy suggested. “Don’t chase a statistic or score. Feel the experience in real time.” Do things for the right reasons. An attitude of glorious amateurism is the right one to take on an adventure. It shields you from worrying about how you look in your sports clothes or who’s going to sponsor you. Do it for yourself.’
For more fascinating female adventurists and endurance champs visit https://www.toughgirlchallenges.com/