Loved by kids across the country as a children’s TV presenter, Helen Skelton has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Sport Relief by completing some incredibly tough challenges, including kayaking the length of the Amazon and travelling to the South Pole. We caught up with the brave Cumbrian ahead of her appearance at The Outdoors Show
You’ve kayaked up the Amazon, travelled to the South Pole and highwire walked between the towers of Battersea Power Station breaking world records in the process – what drives you to undertake such brave feats? I am in a unique position – I work among a team of people who help, support and create my mad ambitions and I want to make the most of it. Plus, you only get one life so I want to have the most fun I can!
Are you in training for anything at the moment?
I want to do a triathlon. I bought a road bike two years ago but haven’t yet found the time to train for it so that’s my next goal. My Sports Relief challenges are less about me and more about the team of people I can muster so maybe I should be practicing my leadership skills!
What’s your dream challenge you’d like to complete or place to visit? I would love to cycle the Urals. Or sail around Cape Cod. I also want to climb Everest. I have a very long list!
How do you relax between adventures? There isn’t really time to relax in my job but I wouldn’t have it any other way. When I have time I love walking my dog and swimming.
Your parents must worry when you’re away – how do they cope? They worry nonstop. My mum hates the internet but has started using it more to keep in touch with me while I am away. To be honest I don’t think they
do cope – it’s my brother who gets it in the neck though!
You seem to be naturally competitive – are you your own worst enemy in terms of pushing yourself to the limits? I guess so. That and I only get to do the things I do because of telly and so I feel a responsibility to make good telly, which can mean taking risks.
Not only are these challenges being filmed but you’re raising money for Sport Relief too – how do you cope with the pressure during your challenges?
“ I would love to ”
cycle the Urals. Or sail around Cape Cod. I also want to climb Everest
You have to keep perspective. When I want to moan I remind myself that I am only doing it for a few weeks, whereas some of the people I have met are dealing with things their whole life.
Who inspired you as a youngster? Ellen MacArthur, Daley Thompson and to a certain extent Paul Daniels – he always looked like he was having fun.
What advice would you give to any young people who want to follow in your adventurous footsteps? Being afraid of something isn’t a bad thing. Don’t let people tell you
your ideas or dreams are ridiculous. They’re yours!
What’s been the most difficult time you’ve had to overcome? I found it hard being away from my fiancé and family over Christmas last year. My fiancé got injured in a rugby match on Boxing Day and not being there for him was heartbreaking.
And what has felt to be the greatest achievement?
Completing three marathons in a day in the desert. I hate running and I was really ill in the middle of the marathon so to get up and keep going was hard but gave me confidence. My mum had flown to Namibia to meet me. She hates flying so I was very proud of her and totally humbled.
What’s the one thing you can’t travel without? My passport (sorry…!)
Does your fiancé share your sense of adventure or does a typical holiday for the pair of you find you on the beach? Bless him, he has sacrificed holidays for kite skiing trips to Norway, where all he can do is watch because of the rules in his rugby contract, but he does like to try new things when he can. To be honest, he says he’ll have a go at anything if it means we get time to hang out – I’m lucky.
Where’s your favourite place on earth? The top of a certain fell in the Lakes. I’m not telling you which though, it’s already too busy!