What’s it like to do the Red Bull ski jump run?

“OMG we’ve GOT to do this!” I enthused, simultaneously holding a glass of wine and shoving the screen of my phone in my husband’s direction.

I’d just shown Andrew this … the Red Bull 400.

The Red Bull 400 ski jump run

Red Bull 400. Image by Victor Engström and used with permission from the Red Bull Content Pool.

It may “only” be 400-metres, but the Red Bull 400 involves running UP a ski jump. Yes, you read that right, UP a ski jump.

Oh, and some of the competitors are professional athletes.

At this point, most people would’ve muttered something less polite than, “are you having a laugh?” but not Andrew. To be fair, his infectious enthusiasm for giving things a go is one of the many reasons I married him …

Which Red Bull 400 ski jump should we run up?

As the 2018 dates for the Red Bull 400 were released, we eagerly (nervously) scanned the various European venues, with our all-important “criteria” in mind, namely:

  • Holiday potential – the most important factor, surely?!
  • Ease of getting there for a long weekend – direct flights, not in the middle of nowhere.
  • Relatively low altitude – running up a ski jump would be hard enough without having to battle 3000-metre altitude.

That last point narrowed the options somewhat, what with ski jumps generally being in the mountains 😉 All of which led us to …

Finlanda weekend in Helsinki and a day out to the nearby city of Lahti, home to one rather large ski jump.

How to train for the Red Bull 400

Three months of vigorous training ensued. We even hired a trainer to help us – Gavin of Fitness Framework in York. To say he pushed us hard was an understatement:

Glutes were strengthened, legs lunged, arms pumped and our cores crunched within an inch of their lives.

The Red Bull 400 reality hits home

The weekend finally arrived. Following a direct flight from Manchester and a lovely day or so exploring Helsinki, the Saturday dawned with blazing hot sunshine. After feasting on a carb-and-protein-tastic breakfast of eggs on toast, we crammed some bananas, water and sunscreen into a rucksack, and caught the tram to the station for our one-hour train journey to Lahti.

[box type=”info”]We used the Whim App for city transport within Helsinki itself. An 80 minute Zone 1 journey mobile ticket was 2.20 Euro. Mobile tickets are cheaper than those bought from ticket machines. Disclosure: Whim provided us with App travel credit for this trip.[/box]

The nerves were already kicking in by this point. We knew there were about 700 runners, which meant the chances of us being in the top 160 (80 women and 80 men) to reach the finals were fairly small.

We’d like to say our nerves were steadied after reaching the venue, but … er … they weren’t!

The heats

The heats are 300-metres rather than the full 400. I was in the last of the women’s heats, and Andrew in the first of the men’s, which gave us a chance to watch and see what we were in for!

What we were in for was pain, a whole lot of pain! My speed was pretty good until the steepest part of the hill kicked in; and after then it was a serious but steady scramble to the top.

My calves were burning, and my respiratory system was at full tilt – even drawing breath was difficult. The lactic acid was so bad that when the slope levelled out again, it was practically impossible to move my legs again, never mind run.

My result: 101st out of 205 ladies in the heats, in a time of 4:33.

Then it was Andrew’s turn. Andrew’s heat was straight after mine, which meant I was slowly recovering my breath and coughing my way back down (using a staircase this time!), whilst he was bounding up.

Andrew Hill Red Bull 400 Lahti Finland

Was he screaming all the way up? Image by Victor Engström and used with permission of the Red Bull Content Pool.

Andrew managed an impressive time of 3:29, coming 182nd out of 328 men.

We were both a bit disappointed not to make the finals, although our bodies were pretty happy not to have to do it again!

Resting after the Red Bull 400 ski jump run, Lahti, Finland

After all that, we needed a good lie down

What kind of people win?

We weren’t kidding about the athletic competition: podium winners included the women’s world indoor marathon record holder, a men’s Gold Olympic medalist in cross-country ski-ing and a professional ice hockey player!!

Does the Red Bull 400 hurt?

Er, yes! It’s honestly the hardest my respiratory system has EVER worked, and we had to walk backwards up hills the following day and take more buses, our calves hurt that much. Fortunately our glutes, core and arms came through unscathed, so the training definitely paid off (thanks Gavin!)

The pain was worth it though, as with the help of friends, family and colleagues we raised £600 for The Prince’s Trust, a charity that supports disadvantaged young people in jobs, education and training.

[box type=”info”]We stayed in an Airbnb apartment in the Kallio neighbourhood of Helsinki (££ discount off your first Airbnb stay with this link). Help the site by using this link, at no extra cost to you.[/box]

My top Red Bull 400 tips

  1. Train.
  2. Train some more.
  3. Be proud of your slightly crazy British reverse-Eddie the Eagle endeavours 🙂

Have you ever planned a holiday around a sporting event, a crazy one or otherwise? Share your stories below!

Summer 2015: 40 for 40, meeting fellow traveloholics, and running for charity …

Summer, summer, summer. Oh how I love you. Eating ice-cream, playing tennis, hanging out with friends, walking on the hills, sitting in a beer garden in the sun.

For me, this summer will feature all the above and more. I’ll hit the big four uh-oh, seek to connect with some local traveloholics, and will pound the streets of my home city for a great cause. It’s all about making good stuff happen.

I’m going to visit my 40th country – for my big four uh-oh!

No flashpacker / backpacker style travel for this one. Me and my girlfriends are heading for a city break in Lisbon, Portugal in early July. The flight’s booked. The nice apartment is organised, and the “sampling the local port” tour is on the list of things to sort out. If anyone has any recommendations, I’d love to hear them – just drop me a comment below.

Last time the girls and I had a city break together was in Rome – where we ended up as the plot line in an Italian comedy soap opera that involved diamonds and Yorkshire pudding. Obviously.

Rome The Gap Year Edit

Rome with the girls – before having to explain what a Yorkshire pudding was …

I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen in Lisbon!

The date for the big four uh-oh itself is later in July – naturally I’m in complete denial 😉

Join the Yorkshire and Yonder Traveloholics on Meetup!

One dumped and tearful Julie + one practical mum with a ready supply of flapjack and ideas on how to keep me busy (read: busier than usual) = one crap-situation-turned-fantastic-inspiration!

That was then, this is now … and my Travel Meetup group is now born (mum’s first idea was about Jesus, which was a seriously badly-timed suggestion).

The Meetup group is all about getting together with like-minded people and talking travel. And – who knows – maybe we’ll all end up on some adventures together.

Whichever way, the first get together is set for 15 June 2015 in gorgeous York, UK.

I’m choosing running over wine. Ok, maybe not over wine.

I ambitiously said I wanted to run 10k in less than 55 minutes when I wrote my “25 experiences I want to have … ” list. This was one of those “yeah, I’ll do it one day” vague ambitions that had been locked somewhere in the back my mind for about five years. Well, no more … it’s going to be a priority for summer 2015, thanks to some serious inspiration from Sir Ranulph Fiennes.

run 10k in under 55mins

Me and grandad in 2001

I’ve entered a 10k charity run, and will be pounding the streets of York in early August in aid of Macmillan Cancer Support in memory of my wonderful grandad.

I’ve set up my JustGiving page.

I’ve downloaded a training plan.

I’ve been going to the gym or out for a run three times a week.

I’ve only had one “I think I might go to the pub instead” lapse.

I’m down to 57 minute pace with less than three months to go. On that note … what am I doing sat here writing this … ?

If you have any Lisbon suggestions, thoughts on any travel-esque groups you’ve been to, or top ideas about how I can run faster (rocket-propelled trainers aside), then do drop me a comment below. I’d love to hear from you.

The time I gave directions to Sir Ranulph Fiennes, the world’s greatest living explorer

… and how his current Saharan fundraising adventures for Marie Curie are an inspiration.

“How do I get from Stansted into central London?” Sir Ranulph Fiennes asked me in an 11pm phone call, after I’d spoken with a colleague to confirm his flight.

On travel-mode auto-pilot, I instantly replied: “You catch the Stansted Express train straight from the airport into Liverpool Street. It takes about 40 minutes. Or, if you want the Victoria Line, you can get off at Tottenham Hale.” I paused. “Thanks again for everything, Sir Ran. Good night and have a safe flight in the morning.”

I put down the phone and the thought dawned on me. I HAD JUST GIVEN THE WORLD’S GREATEST LIVING EXPLORER DIRECTIONS!

This, the man who has traversed the Antarctic, reached the North Pole, run seven marathons on seven continents in seven days, and conquered Everest. Places and experiences many of us can only imagine in our wildest travel dreams.

I met Sir Ranulph when he spoken at my then company’s conference just over a year ago. I was his point of contact. Sir Ranulph and his stories will leave you raptured and in awe, both on- and off-stage. And this week he’s inspiring me again.

Ultra marathon in the Sahara

Sir Ranulph is currently in the scorching Sahara desert, He’s running 156 miles in the Marathon des Sables over six days, from 5-11 April, to raise money for Marie Curie Cancer Care.

man running on sahara desert sand dunes

Fancy doing this for six days in scorchio temperatures? Me neither. Kudos to Sir Ranulph though 🙂

I’ve volunteered with Marie Curie. I’ve seen the great work they do caring for terminally ill patients and supporting their families here in the UK.

Over the years Sir Ranulph has raised over £14 million for charities including Marie Curie. He’s been named by JustGiving as the UK’s top celebrity fundraiser.

156-miles across a desert may be beyond me, but Sir Ranulph has inspired me to dig out my running shoes and enter the Jane Tomlinson 10k charity run in York in August. I’ll be fundraising, and trying to get my time under 55 minutes – it’s one of the 25 (more) experiences I’m going to have before I die.

Back to Sir Ranulph, though. I’ve made a donation to his stupendous ultra-marathon efforts. It would be wonderful if you could also support him in this challenge for an amazing cause.

You can donate via JustGiving at: https://www.justgiving.com/ranulph

You can read all about how Sir Ranulph is getting on here. Let’s hope he knows where he’s going 😉