Who is Jacqui Bell?
At only 25 years old Jacqui Bell is today the youngest person in the world to have run an on each of the 7 continents. We met her in 2019 and started working together, she is incredibly inspiring and we are convinced that her story is meant to be shared!
How and why did you start running?
For as long as I can remember, I've always enjoyed running, not just for fitness but for fun. At school I loved the open camaraderie of training and doing cross-country with my friends, mainly for chatting. Then I grew up and started running on my travels, I saw it as a way to discover many places while staying in shape, I just needed to put on my sneakers and put my feet outside. So I guess you could say that running has always been a part of my life.
I have also been working as a fitness trainer for more than 6 years and I push my clients to set a goal like running 5 kilometres or a half marathon to challenge themselves on performance rather than an aesthetic goal. I train with them for their event. Then as time went on I started running longer and longer distances. I remember taking part in a 50km road race when I was just 20 years old and loving it! That feeling after the race, I couldn't think of anything better.
Unfortunately when I turned 21 I had a health problem, I broke a few bones, had my tonsils out and other worries that took me in the wrong direction.
It was when I really hit rock bottom that I turned to running as one last way to get back on track. I knew that if I didn't seriously get my life back on track, I wouldn't get out of this spiral.
Why did you keep running?
Three years ago, when I was 22, I knew I had to make a big change in my life. That's when I decided that running would be the solution to get me out of where I was.
It all started after watching a video of Andrew Papadopoulos who successfully completed a stage race across the Simpson Desert in Australia. I didn't know Andrew at the time but seeing him run those 250km in the hottest desert in the world triggered something in me.
That's when I decided to run my first deserted race would be my big goal and I had 8 months to prepare, train and equip myself. When I began to learn about ultra-marathons, I realized that this sport was much more important than I had imagined. I decided to run the 4 ultra desert marathons which are considered the hardest races in the world. The hardest part of my challenge was to tell my parents at just 22 years old that I was going to run 250 kilometres through the hottest, windiest, driest and coldest deserts in the world haha! That was my first hurdle! That was in August 2017... Since then I haven't looked back...
What do you get out of sport in your daily life?
Sport allows me to work on the physical pillar of my health, which in turn allows me to work on my other pillars - my emotional, mental and social well-being. Moving my body every day pushes me to face every challenge that comes my way. When you run an Ultra the emotions are heightened tenfold and every decision is made under pressure, these situations make you see who you really are.
What does it mean to be a woman in your sport?
I like to run ultras and I do it because it brings out the best version of myself. I hope that by following my dreams through my sport and outside of it, it can inspire generations of young girls to go for things that may not be "in the norm" and set big, bold goals for themselves to achieve. I love seeing women on Ultras even more, when I first started the gap between the percentage of female vs. male athletes was significant. After only a few years, the difference is starting to narrow. The men I've met on these races always seem to have a great respect for these "badass" women who also face these races.
Did you feel a difference in being a woman in sport?
For sure there is a sense of surprise/shock from people and a lot of questions, how am I able to do my job full time and I guess it has to do with the expectations of what a 25 year old girl should be doing on a daily basis. I think that the more I tend towards this direction which is far from working "normally" with a 9 to 5 job the more I raise questions: How? And there's really no secret or answer other than working hard and loving what you do to the point that my work goes hand in hand with my passion to compete around the world.
RaidLight products are constantly being improved and that's what I'm looking for! They are very light which is essential for me when I run trails or ultras. It's been over 3 years that I have been using RaidLight, Packs are the best, very good quality.
What's your favourite product?
My Ultralight waterproof jacket. It is extremely light, perfect for stage races when I have to carry everything on my back. I also love my Responsiv 24L race vest in which I can put everything I need for a week's race, which is pretty amazing.
Is there one woman in particular who inspired you to follow your dreams?
Jamie, a very good friend, inspires me every day, she is not a professional athlete or even a runner but her work ethic, passion for everything she does resonates with me. No matter what she does, she gives 100% and makes sure it's done very well. She doesn't let herself be intimidated by the people she works with - no matter if they are twice her age, more experienced or more powerful, she will always do her best to do the job she has been given. I always try to remember that when I run - it doesn't matter who I'm running against, if I give my best, that's all I'm expected to do, and if I win that's just a bonus, and if I don't win, it's just that someone ran better than I did that day.
What was your biggest challenge?
My biggest challenge has been to confront myself every day because I am convinced that we are our biggest obstacle in life. A few years ago, I took the time to think, you know it's like I knew I was in a terrible situation and something had to change. I needed to be realistic with myself, take a long look in the mirror and face the reason why I am so unhappy.
Today, I still like to ask myself from time to time where I stand, because it's very easy to get caught up in the game of the world we live in and lose track of time. When I start to sweep problems away and avoid them, that's when I break down in the race and in my everyday life.