Sophie Countess of Wessex writes about her training experience

Sophie Countess of Wessex writes about her training experience

Like Camilla before her and Pippa Middleton after her (go here to read about that), Sophie Countess of Wessex wrote an article for the Daily Mail about her training for her 450 mile bike ride to support the DofE Award Diamond Challenge.

The article came out on Friday and I’m just now getting to it. Sophie writes:

    “At the start of this year I had almost no experience as a road cyclist. Like many people, I had only ever gone on occasional bike rides with my family. But in a few days’ time I will be cycling 450 miles from Holyrood Palace in Edinburgh to Buckingham Palace in six and a half days. When I told my family what I was planning they definitely thought I was quite mad and I’m not sure they took my plan seriously at first. But from the start I was determined to succeed, and to be one of the many committed people who will take on a Diamond Challenge this year in support of the 60th anniversary of the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (DofE).
    “The funds that I and others, of all ages, raise will give thousands more young people the chance to experience the life-changing opportunities offered by the DofE. I could not fail, but I knew I couldn’t do it on my own, so I enlisted the help of Rachel McKenzie, one of the amazing Physical Training Instructors at Sandhurst. If she was daunted by the task of getting me fit enough for the challenge, she didn’t show it. It was clear we had some serious work to do.
    “Those early days were pure hell. Every incline was like the north face of the Eiger and I prayed for the end of every ride! I confess I even shed a tear or two of desperation and frustration. It took time to get to grips with the kit, the saddle(!), the cleats (I crashed only 10 feet from the car the first time), the aches and pains. Juggling training with family life and engagements supporting other charitable organisations has required meticulous planning. And the bike rides have sometimes contained an element of danger; on one occasion three of us ended up on the wrong end of a wooden plank and found ourselves in a hedge. It left us shaken and with some interesting cuts and bruises, but it didn’t deter me from my goal to be fit enough to complete my journey.
    “There have been many enjoyable moments too. Getting to know the team riding with me, representatives from the military regiments I am associated with, has been an absolute pleasure. The scenes of our falls have become known as ‘Countess’s Verge’ or ‘Craig’s Corner’ whenever we ride past. On one occasion, early in our training, Rachel took a wrong turn and added what I have only recently found out was eight miles on to an already long ride, blithely telling me it was two or three. And we have certainly enjoyed many delicious cake stops along the way.
    “I turned 50 last year and there have been moments when I questioned if I would be able to achieve the fitness required. But the more time passed, the more I believed in myself. Over the months, as my family has watched me coming and going with my bike, I think they have come to realise that this challenge is something I am totally dedicated to and I have a feeling they may even be quite proud of me. As I prepare to head out of the gates of Holyrood Palace, the thought is still quite scary, but after a long six months of training I finally feel prepared(ish!). Every time I wondered what I had taken on, usually half way up the most ghastly hills, I have tried to remember why I agreed to do this.
    “The DofE is a charity that needs support. It subsidises every young person who takes part and depends on donations and grants for nearly half its funding. When I became involved with the charity I was struck by the incredible confidence of nearly all the young people doing the Award, their life-changing stories, and the way this simple programme has created such incredible opportunity for so many. Regardless of background gender, faith, ethnicity or ability, the DofE helps every individual discover inner strengths, helps them stand out from the crowd, lift their eyes and see the world around them, so they can create opportunity for themselves. The Diamond Appeal will help the DofE do even more work among disadvantaged and marginalised communities, ensuring that every young person can access the Award programme.
    “This thought, and the wonderful support of my family, friends and many others, has spurred me on. Six months on I am fitter than ever. I have been surprised by how much I enjoy cycling, which I aspire to continue once my Challenge is complete. I hope I will help The Duke of Edinburgh’s Awards achieve its funding goals in its 60th year and may also inspire others to do their own Diamond Challenge, no matter how big or small. Would I recommend cycling? It’s worth it for the cake!”

[Daily Mail]

The bike photos were taken on September 15 in Farnham, England during her final training ride. Sophie’s bike ride begins later today with Prince Philip and Prince Edward waving her off. Sophie’s Just Giving page is here – she’s raised over £94,000.

On September 7, Sophie, Countess of Wessex, as Grand President of St. John Ambulance, attended the St. John Ambulance’s Everyday Heroes awards. You can read about the winners here.

Sophie wore a black lace one-shoulder Stella McCartney dress.

On September 14, Sophie, as Patron of British Wheelchair Basketball, sent messages of support to the British Wheelchair Basketball teams ahead of their Paralympic matches.

The first message reads:

    “As you finalise your preparations for today’s men’s quarter-final tie against Australia, I wanted to wish you all every success for what I know will be an exciting and difficult match.
    “Your performances in these Paralympic Games have been outstanding and a fantastic showcase for Wheelchair Basketball. You successes, determination and passion continue to inspire people to take up this brilliant sport. All the players, coaches and support staff should feel very proud of what you have achieved.
    “I am sorry that I am unable to support you in person, but rest assured I will be watching today’s match on television with great interest and cheering you on from afar. Good luck!”

And the second message is pretty much the same but with slight alterations:

    “As you prepare for tomorrow’s women’s semi-final tie against the United States of America, I wanted to wish you every success for what I know will be an exciting and difficult match.
    “Your performances in these Paralympic Games have been exceptional and a fantastic showcase for Wheelchair Basketball. You successes, determination and passion continue to inspire people to take up this brilliant sport. All the players, coaches and support staff should feel very proud of your achievements.
    “I am sorry that I am unable to support you in person, but rest assured I will be watching the match on television with great interest and cheering you on from afar. Good luck!”

22 thoughts on “Sophie Countess of Wessex writes about her training experience

  1. Sophie seems really genuine and her patronages seem to cover a lot of interests. Very different from the younger generation of royals. I’m glad the media is giving her some attention.

  2. Looking at the amount of comments on the other articles I feel like I missed a lot during a weekend with no internet but as i know that WK will make me angry and frustrated at some point, I rather focus on Sophie.

    She’s amazing! Whenever she shows up for an engagement she is informed, caring and well dressed. She takes her job serious – she seems like someone who found her position in life and royal family and who is totally confident and happy in what she is doing. It’s great to see!

    And loved to hear from her about the preparations, training, rance and charity – it’s not a short read but totally worse it and gives you a much better understanding than a few pictures and short note.

    Sophie also looks amazing! I wish I will look like that when I will be in her age

  3. I have not read all of it as I am getting ready for work. However I am impressed by the honesty from Sophie and that Sophie challenges herself through her sports and charities. Not only that but taking time out to give messages to the teams at the Olympics. I think Sophie doing this challenge is something I would follow her doing as it makes her happy.

  4. Good for Sophie! She took on quite a challenge and met it. IMO, she and Harry do more to make the royal family modern and relevant than any of the others.

    And for anyone who has not seen it, here’s a clip from a couple of years ago of Sophie speaking at the DoE awards–almost five minutes long and no notes!

    Perhaps a certain other senior female member of the royal family should take on a DoE challenge, and gain skills in leadership, resiliency, resourcefulness and confidence!

  5. Yes, Sophie is dedicated. Yes, she is a great role model and yes, she is someone I would love to meet! She does everything with grace and dignity and really takes the time to get to know the issues that she supports. I am in awe of her training! In awe of her overall demeanor. She makes me believe that there is a special shine to every issue she undertakes. Go, Sophie!

  6. Thanks for this inspiring post KMR!!! As Sophie and I are just about the same age, it’s especially inspiring to me to see her undertake such a physically demanding challenge. And kudos to her family for the support they’ve given her. I love how she speaks honestly about her concerns and insecurities in taking on this challenge, no fluff, no buzz words, just honest fears and hopes.

    Good Luck Sophie and we look forward to seeing you at the finish line!!

  7. Well, I’m very impressed! This is not a woman who is athletic, and she’s older. Not a woman who does marathons. To take on such a Herculean task is admirable. Her article shows true passion and support for the DofE anniversary and awards. And dedication. And grit. She also comes across as nicely human and I can relate to her. In addition, there is no confusion in my mind about the name and goals of the charity she is labouring for and how heartfelt it is. She’s a terrific role model.

  8. Good for her! i’ve come to really like her.
    Does the queen give her a clothing allowance like Charles gives Kate or does she spend her own money on her attire? Do we know?

    KMR,Now you need to do a post on Madeleine looking faboo in NY!! =)

    1. From what I understand, the Queen gives Edward a stipend each year to spend on his family, so Sophie’s clothes budget would come from that.

  9. Best of luck, Sophie! I’m hard pressed to ride 25 miles in a day (and I need to recover for a month LOL), never mind 65+ miles for 7 days in a row.

  10. It’s funny that Kate did the DOE award as a teen. IIRC she took the gold challenge. Yet in adulthood doesn’t support the awards in any way.

    Most, if not all Kate’s celebrated interests of causes she’s keen on are actually Sophie’s interests and or Patronages

    Eg Kate is celebrated for a wide range of things eg Sailing, Hockey, Tennis, mental health in children.

    Meanwhile, Sophie is Patron or president of:

    Sail training UK – a charity that teaches kids to sail
    Hockey England – nuff said
    Childline – a charity that operates like the samaritans and allows kids to discuss their very difficult lives in confidence.
    NSPCC – whilst HM is Patron, Sophie is president.
    Girlguiding – Has Kate done anything for the scouts recently?
    Shooting Star Chase – when was the last time Kate visited a hospice?
    The Royal Tennis Court – do we ever see Kate supporting tennis except for her Wimbledon, men’s matches?

  11. I cannot help but compare Kate to Sophie. Kate has had 10+ years to prepare for this job and her skills as a speaker and writer are still sorely lacking. She really is an embarrassment to the royal family, especially since she is the wife to the heir to the throne. I get the fact that Kate is not a naturally warm or empathetic person, but there are other things she could cultivate in terms of her “job” within the royal family. Princess Anne is certainly not a warm and fuzzy person, but we all know she is a really hard worker and that is what people remember her for. Kate is pretty much an afterthought. I really think this is the reason she is referred to in the press more as Kate Middleton and not as the Duchess of Cambridge or even (which is incorrect) Princess Kate. The public does not respect her because there is nothing there. With some assistance from some really good PR people, speech giving coaches and good fashion advice (like, dressing her age) she could probably turn this around, but I think she stays the same because she is either afraid to change or maybe she just does not care.

  12. This is beyond awesome. This is the type of trip that I would join in a heartbeat!Great exercise and wonderful scenery. This is a huge undertaking and I am so glad that she kept true to her word. I will be honest: I will do anything to watch her GoPro footage. That will be total gold.

    Thank you for sharing this, KMR! I find Sophie to be such a delight.

    1. Agreed! Sophie is amazing. I would love to do something like this. A friend of mine did the MS 150. She didn’t prepare for it so it was torture for her, but she finished. I’m glad Sophie is showing how much training goes into this. I hope the route is mostly flat or downhill.

  13. Sophie is a true inspiration! Her dedication and her willingness to go outside of her comfort zone to help others is truly wonderful . Her blog takes us along, too. I cannot say enough about such a hard-working woman. She needs to bottle her dedication and spirit and spritz it on Kate every now and then!

    Go, Sophie!

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