A Spotlight on... Tough Girl Challenges

By Sarah Williams
6 minute read

We get to know Sarah Williams from Tough Girl Challenges a little more. We find out why she likes Type 2 fun but not caving and discover a disgusting thing that all her funniest stories have in common...

Introduce yourself: who are you and what do you do

My name is Sarah Williams and I’m the founder of Tough Girl Challenges which is all about motivating and inspiring women and girls to get fit and active, travel and explore, and to encourage women and girls to have big dreams and to step outside their comfort zone.

I’m the host of the award winning, Tough Girl Podcast where I interview adventurers, explorers, athletes, thru-hikers, mountaineers, swimmers, rowers and everyday women who have undertaken a big physical challenge. So far, I've spoken to over 200 women who have shared their stories with me. The Tough Girl Podcast is listened to in 174 countries around the world and has had over 870,000 downloads.

I help to increase the amount of female role models in the media and encourage other women to do the same. I completed the Marathon des Sables (6 marathons in 6 days across the Sahara Desert) in April 2016 and in 2017 I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail (2,190 miles) in 100 days! In 2018 and cycled the Pacific Coast Highway and Baja California solo and unsupported (over 4,000 km). I have a Masters in Women and Gender Studies from Lancaster University, and am a qualified yoga instructor and personal trainer.

Tough Girl Challenges

Why did you start Tough Girl Challenge?

I wanted to combine my passion and interests and to create my own business which I would be able to run from anywhere in the world. I love travel and adventures and pushing myself physically. I also want to motivate and inspire other women and girls and show women they don’t have to be just one thing.

Tough Girl Challenge is a combination of these passions. It is about being tough and feminine and at the same time increasing the amount of female role models in the media especially in relation to the adventure and challenge space.

Who is the Tough Girl Tribe?

The Tough Girl Tribe is a closed Facebook Community that I have built in order to connect women around the world who have a passion for adventure and challenge. It a place for the listeners and supporters to come together. It is a female only space, where women can share details of their adventures and get help, support and encouragement.

Striking a thru-hiker's pose on the Appalachian Trail in 2017Sarah looking very happy about a wild swim in Loch NessSarah Williams

How do you choose your adventures?

I look for challenges which are outside my comfort zone, which excite me and make me a little nervous at the same time. For example, I’d run multiple marathons before and running 26.2 miles was in my comfort zone, however, going further and running in the desert and running multiple marathons back to back scared me and I didn’t know if I’d be able to do it! With these thoughts – I knew that doing the Marathon des Sables was the perfect way to launch Tough Girl Challenges.

What has been your favourite adventure so far?

I’ve really enjoyed all of my challenges, getting outside, getting back to nature, exploring new countries and meeting new people. It’s a very simple way of living and I get a huge amount of personal satisfaction from setting big challenges and then going out to make it happen.

I do prefer the longer challenges such as the Appalachian Trail, which was 100 days and cycling down the Pacific Coast Highway which also took around 3 months. I'm so pleased that I vlogged these journeys and was able to share them with others. I really enjoy watching them back and remembering what life was like while out on the road.

What has been your worst adventure so far?

I think all experiences help you to grow and develop and help to challenge you in different ways. I don’t have a worst adventure, I always try to look at the positives. There have been tough times, and days when I have been miserable or in pain. But at the end of the day you need to have the bad with the good so you can appreciate the good. The full experience is what makes it so magical – the type 2 fun!

At the top of KatahdinCycling the Pacific Coast Highway in 2018Sarah hiking in Scotland

How do you prepare for a challenge?

I break it down into manageable chunks. For example, I will break it down into logistics, physical training and mental training. Each of these sections will also be broken down into smaller more manageable chunks. E.g. for Logistics, flights, insurance, equipment etc and each of these can be broken down into more manageable chunks. I keep making each task smaller and smaller, so that it doesn’t overwhelm me.

I also find it really powerful to have the start date locked down so I can then work backwards to see what needs to be done in the time-frame. Having a goal to work towards makes me very productive and driven. I will then just start working my way through my to-do list and start ticking off those jobs!

How do you get through the tough bits of an adventure?

I always think about how this is my choice to be out here and that I wanted to do this and also that I'm very grateful to be outside living life on my terms and not sat at a desk behind a computer screen for 8 hours a day. I have found using gratitude very powerful, it can help to shift your perspective and mindset. Plus having some food, a hot chocolate and getting a good night’s sleep helps as well!

What advice would you give to people just starting out?

Do something that motivates and inspires you. Don’t worry what other people are doing and don’t compare your challenge with anyone else. This is your personal journey and you get to do it how you want. The key things I’ve found is to stop talking about it and start taking action to make it happen. You are the only one who can make your dreams come true. You must decide what it is you want to do, and you must put in the work to make it happen. You must start, and once you start you will build momentum and before you know you will have completed it. Don’t be afraid. Live your life and act now.

Tell us a funny story from one of your adventures.

I can't - they all involve poo!!!

What’s number one on your bucket list?

Such a great question! Every time I speak to a new guest for the Tough Girl Podcast, I get inspired and end up adding another challenge onto my ever-growing list. Number one would probably be the Pacific Crest Trail over in America, I’ve been thinking about that hike for a while – walking from Mexico to Canada over 2,600 miles. I’d also love to do another big cycling challenge, either cycling across America and visiting lots of state parks or doing a big cycle adventure in Asia.

Is there anywhere you definitely wouldn’t go back to?

I’m not a massive fan of being cold and wet – so I wouldn’t be that keen to go caving again!

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