So you think it's cold in the UK right now? Maybe you're huddled up at home thinking "I'll start exercising again when it's warmer." Well, spare a thought for me and the 23 brave women and men who, in two weeks' time, will be flying to Lapland to start a marathon trek through the Arctic wilderness. We'll be spending the nights in mountain lodges with no electricity, breaking the ice of Lake Abisko for our water supply, facing icy winds, sub-zero temperatures and possible storms to complete a 26.2 mile trek on skis to raise money for Walk the Walk.
And you know what? I can't wait!
Because although it's tough the Arctic Marathon is also one of my favourite Walk the Walk challenges because it brings people so close together.
At the beginning of our last trip everyone seemed so different. There were outdoorsy types who loved skiing, other women who had never skied in their life before taking up the challenge and learning on dry slopes. The one thing we all did have in common was that we were a very busy bunch. Our phones were virtually glued to our hands as we rushed from place to place - school drop-off to meeting to coffee with friends. That's how we all live these days, isn't it?
But in the Arctic, with no reception, your phone is nothing but a poor-quality torch for as long as the battery lasts. By the end of the first day I didn't miss it any more. The world became tightly focused on the trail in front of me, the skis on my feet and the 12 people I was sharing the journey with. In the evening we chopped wood for the fire, drew up water then around candle lit tables we had simple but delicious food and lots of great conversation.
Life settles into a simple, peaceful pattern. It's a strange feeling - like you're very close to the people you're with but at the same time you feel completely alone as well. When we crossed the finish line it's amazing how many of us really didn't want to leave this wonderful utopia. A bit of pampering at the Ice Hotel soon eased us back into the real world, though.
On the first day of the trip I'd asked everyone what they were looking forward to most and without exception pretty much everyone said seeing the Northern Lights. We were lucky enough to see them four times, and it really is an awe-inspiring experience. But when I asked everybody at the end, what was their personal highlight of the trip, they all said the camaraderie, the friendship and the overall experience and challenge of the trip had overridden the Aurora Borealis completely!
So, when I look at the list for this year's group I know I'm looking at a list of future friends. There's a family of five women from Cheshire, Walk the Walk's very own lawyer has taken up the challenge, skiing with his best friend from uni, and there are a few lone skiers too.
I'm especially looking forward to skiing with champion yachtswoman Emma Pontin. In 2013, she was diagnosed with secondary breast cancer, which remains incurable. Her response to this devastating news was to pledge to raise £1m for Walk the Walk. I'm completely blown away by her generosity and courage (you can find out more about her story here and sponsor her here) she is an amazing person with a wonderful vibrant energy which is totally infectious.
I know this trip will be taking Emma out of her comfort zone of the high seas, I can't think of anyone better to share a mountain lodge with, so I am expecting some great tales over our candlelit dinners. That really is one of my pleasures on this trip, to have the opportunity to really get to know people and to enjoy sharing their company and this exciting journey!