The new Scott of the Antarctic
In December last year, Jeanie Cordy-Simpson, née Scott, ran the Antarctic Ice Marathon. Enduring temperatures of minus 20 degrees Celsius, a white-out and fighting frostbite, she battled the elements. To Jeanie, this was nothing compared to what her cousin Emily endured at the mercy of breast cancer and who died, leaving two children and devastated hearts behind.
"When Emily succumbed to the disease, she was so young and her tiny children were the same age as my two. I’d just had enough of seeing the havoc it was wreaking. It could have been any one of my cousins or me. It still could. I’d decided to raise these funds for these charities as they darned well need all the help they can get," says Jeanie. "I began a campaign called 40:40:40. I intend to spend my forties raising a matching £40,000 for the age of 40 she didn’t get to be.”
Jeanie plans to run another three mega marathons in Asia, South America and Australia in order to complete the Seven Continents Marathon Challenge. She has already completed marathons in New York, Athens and Kenya and of course the Antarctic.
Here we chat with Jeanie about the preparation, the race itself, the motivation and mindset and the reason she embarked on this incredible challenge in the first place...
Jeanie is fundraising via JustGiving.com in support of CoppaFeel and Breast Cancer Now.
Braving the elements in the Antarctic Ice Marathon.
My cousin died of breast cancer in 2019 at the age of 37. She raised £40K in one night hosting a charity gala just before she died. She was so hopeful that she would live to be 40, a milestone so many of us groan about reaching...
Getting race ready
Tell us more about your 7 continents challenge - a marathon on every continent. What have you completed so far and I believe you still have three to go - where and what do these entail?
I’ve run in the New York City Marathon, The Athens (original) Marathon, The Lewa Marathon and now The Ice Marathon. I’ve actually run in a few others but these four represent the four continents so far. They’ve all been very exciting for different reasons. To tread the original route in Greece was incredible but the animals in Lewa and the EVERYTHING in the Antarctic - wow. I still have Asia, South America and Australia to complete. I’m running the Petra Desert Marathon in Jordan to represent the Asian component in September.
You have already raised over £20,000 of your £40,000 target for Breast Cancer Awareness and Coppafeel. How does this feel?
I’m absolutely delighted and blown away to say that we’ve actually raised over the target for Coppafeel! We’ve got to £23,000, which is £3K over target. Breast Cancer Now sits at £17,000 so another £3K to raise there. Anything beyond that is a bonus and beyond anything we could have possibly hoped for.
What did your preparation and training entail? Was it months/years in the planning? Where did you train?
It takes months of training. The training is far and away harder than race day - even in the Antarctic. I work full time and have two children so it’s fitting runs and strength training around them for months and months building up to each event. I try not to let my fitness drop between events and follow a 16-week intensive training program that varies depending on the terrain and try to have some practice runs in similar climates or altitudes before the big day. It can be a lot. But no one has made me do it other than myself so best to just shut up and get on with it! And disciplined training makes for a far more enjoyable race day, too. So I’ve learned!
How did you mentally train for the endurance of this race? Do you think mental strength and resilience are something you can exercise like a muscle?
That is such a great question. Yes, I think it probably is. Each time the mileage in training increases, I guess your mental strength adapts to accommodate the physicality. And when the mileage is getting really high, you are getting closer to the race day so that mental motivation is really on the up. But some days - gah - you just want to throw in the towel. For sure.
Jeanie at the finish line raising money and spreading awareness for CoppaFeel and Breast Cancer Now.
Tell us about the actual race - over 26 miles in minus 30 degrees! How did you cope with the cold, the arctic wind, and the emotions?!
Someone said to me before I left that they could never leave their children to go and do something like this. I was initially quite taken aback. My children and their happiness or unhappiness are my absolute Achilles heel - like any mother. But I thought about this and thought…you know what? I’d leave them for two weeks to do this every year if it meant my cousin (and all those mothers that lost their battle) didn’t have to leave theirs forever. And this was a backbone to a lot of the emotion spurring me through. And I’ve not actually said that before. Mainly because any other talks or interviews I’ve done have been with children. So best to just talk about the chocolate we got fed for breakfast and where we went to the loo! But emotions aside…the advice and the clothing we had was second to none. We were told to listen to all the advice about layering and what to wear and how, and we wouldn’t get cold. They wouldn’t allow it. And we didn’t. There’s a bit of an art and knack to it. But it works!
Did you ever feel like giving up? What kept you going?
I was very sick at mile 9 and didn’t think I could continue. The doctors were having none of it. They said it was dehydration and blood sugar crash. So they dosed me up with chocolate, electrolytes and masses of water and off I went. As the saying goes, I hadn’t gone that far just to go that far. So just kind of got on with it. Thank goodness I did. Thank goodness for the help and advice from those docs.
What did the finish line feel like?
It was incredible. Utterly exhilarating. Complete high. Strange to not have my people around me but the team were just so incredible. Runners and organisers alike. They made it very special for everyone as they crossed that line - I will never forget it.
Did you bond with other runners? What was the atmosphere like?
I can’t sing the praises of them more highly. Most of them were in their 7th continent so it was SUCH a buzz to be part of their completion. There were two guys running their first marathons! The men’s record got SMASHED this year, too. And there was a Guinness Book of World Records set by my friend, Chris Hobson. Chris is 69 years old and the oldest woman to run the southernmost marathon in the world. We shared a tent and we bonded so well - she was the only other British woman down there. I’ve got her back for life. Not that she needs me! She is NAILS!
I’d leave (my children) for two weeks to do this every year if it meant my cousin (and all those mothers that lost their battle) didn’t have to leave theirs forever. And this was a backbone to a lot of the emotion spurring me through.
How did you manage the commitment of training with your busy job and family life?
I have to say that it is hard. But as I also say, no one has made me do this. And I take huge amounts of pleasure in it, too. But yes. I’m never at a school dog walk or coffee catch-up or out past 11pm. I miss a lot of things but I don’t miss out on my family or good friends and I can’t miss out on work. You just have to work out how it’s going to work and then stick at it.
What advice would you give other women wanting to commit to training for a cause?
Oh my goodness…if you’ve got the passion to do it, you won’t need my funny old advice. You’ll make the time somehow and what I do know is that if you want to do it…you absolutely can. And it doesn’t need to be running. Find something that you are kind of good at - that you won’t resent spending a fair bit of time doing and see where it takes you. If you set a target of an amount you want to raise or a time scale you want to do it in…you have started your journey.
Any go-to products or kit essentials to whether the cold?
Hand warmers, layers and layers, hats - decent skincare (of course!), tons of chocolate and a bloody big sense of humour.
Tell us about your homecoming...
Well, now. I lost my passport when I arrived back in Chile from the Antarctic. So I was delayed and getting alarmingly close to Christmas. So when I finally landed back in London, it was very emotional. My parents and husband had decorated the house and even though it was 10pm when I finally got home and my parents are almost 80…there were a fair few drinks. And then we barrelled straight into Christmas (which at one point I thought I might be doing over FaceTime from a hotel in Chile) and all was right with the world.
Would you do the antarctic marathon again or is it truly once in a lifetime?
One runner this year had run it 16 times. 16. One lady was doing it for a third time. But for me…it’s a once in a lifetime. Once in ten lifetimes!!
What’s next for Jeanie Cordy-Simpson?
I’m off to Petra in September. I start in the lost city of Petra and run to Wadi Rum and through the desert with the camels! Then Peru next June for the Inca Marathon and then the final marathon is in the Outback Marathon around Ulhuru (Ayer’s Rock) in Australia in 2025. And I’m taking the whole family to that one. You can all come!
On a final note. Breast Cancer Now told me that if fundraising continues for them in its current vein, then by 2050 - no one will be dying of Breast Cancer. It will still exist but no one will lose their life. That’s our children. That’s huge. And I’m so thankful to you all for being part of this and for the overwhelming support.
Jeanie is a wife and mother of two children and a leading skincare therapist living in Oxfordshire. She is fundraising via JustGiving.com in support of CoppaFeel and Breast Cancer Now. You can follow Jeanie here @404040jcs @jeaniescottskin.