Life is for living and making the most of it. If you’ve got those dreams, whatever they are, then you just go out there and you chase them and you get after them because you only get one chance.
Mel Nicholls was a healthy, fit and active 22 year old when she was struck down by a stroke in 2001.
7 years later, her 3rd stroke left her with permanent paralysis and limited function primarily in her left side.
Laying in her hospital bed after that 3rd stroke, Mel found herself watching the Beijing Paralympics which ignited a spark of curiosity and possibility in her.
4 years later - and just 15 months after taking up wheelchair racing - Mel was selected to represent Great Britain at the 2012 London Paralympic Games in the 100m and 200m.
And the following year, she broke the 1,500m World Record!
After representing Great Britain for the second time at the Rio Paralympics in 2016, Mel decided to move away from sprint events on the track and into endurance road racing, and has since raced at both the New York and London marathons, amongst many others.
Looking for a new challenge to feed her adventurous spirit, Mel combined her love of adventure and her competitive streak and set the goal to break the World Record for handcycling the length of Britain - from the south to the north along a route known as Lands End to John o’Groats (or LEJOG). It’s a journey of 874mi/1,400km.
Not only did Mel break the record, she smashed it!
In this conversation, Mel and I discuss:
* her negative memories around sport at school thanks to her PE teachers,
* how she discovered outdoor adventures and endurance sports at University/College,
* her first stroke at the age of 22 and how the doctors initially rejected the idea she’d had a stroke due to her age,
* the impact of watching the Beijing Paralympics in 2008 from her hospital bed after her 3rd stroke,
* how her adventurous mindset helped during her rehabilitation and the importance of understanding what motivates you,
* how she discovered wheelchair racing in 2010, entered her first race in 2011 and by 2012 had been selected for the Paralympic team,
* why she felt like an Imposter after being selected for the 2012 Paralympics and how she navigated those feelings,
* what prompted her decision in 2016 to move away from sprint events on the track and into the longer marathon road races - her first being the New York Marathon,
* how the idea of a ‘human-powered’ exploration of Great Britain originated when she still in hospital after her 3rd stroke,
* handcycling the length of Britain, which included a 300km stage on the final day (!)
* how she navigates the mental challenges associated with training and racing, and
* why it’s important to view all your goals and races as stepping stones on a longer journey,
I also loved Mel’s perspective when she answered my question about whether she could ever have imagined hand cycling 300km in one day.
It was a good reminder for the unconscious limits we all place on ourselves every day.
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