Why so many women are scared to adventure and recognising our female role models with Tough Girl Founder 003: Sarah Williams

A powerful conversation with Tough Girl Challenges founder and Tough Girl Podcast host, Sarah Williams. As friends, we easily cover multiple topics across our conversations. These include how to meet fear head-on and deal with it; why Sarah is inspired by two specific female role models/mentors and the moments in her life that nearly broke her. Interestingly, she elaborates on how those darkest times taught her the most and benefitted her in ways she could never have imagined. There are references to many long-distance trails, in the UK and overseas, with the Appalachian Trail being lauded by Sarah as the most life-changing for her, personally. A female adventure epic.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  00:09

Well, hello, and welcome back to the HeadRightOut Podcast.  My name is Zoe Langley-Wathen and I am your host. This is a relatively new show, and I hope if you’re here for the first time that you will consider hitting that follow button in your podcast app, because we need to get as many subscribers and followers as we possibly can to grow the show.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  00:34

I’m really excited today, because we’re going to be talking to Sarah Williams, who is the founder of Tough Girl Challenges, and the host of the amazing Tough Girl Podcast. It’s a really powerful episode, and although we’re two friends, and we giggle a lot, and we have a little bit of a chatter here and there, we do go into some deeper stuff. Sarah gives some really strong messages of how to look at fear and how to reframe it. We discuss why so many women seem to be hesitant to adventure and where that fear might actually come from. Sarah talks about her passion for wanting to set up Tough Girl Challenges, and the podcast way back six, seven years ago now. I asked her about who her role models are and that was a really fascinating part of the conversation. So I hope you’ll stick with us to listen.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  01:29

Today, here is a beautiful, beautiful day. It’s September. It’s the seventh of September, and we have just got the hottest weather at the moment and the tops of the trees are changing. There’s hardly a breeze out there and the canal is still. We’ve had some dog barking issues. So I will say, you might hear birds tweeting and that probably isn’t a problem. But if you get some interruptions partway through the recording, I apologise because there was a bit of a dog pack issue out on the towpath partway through the recording. So yes, without further ado, I’m going to head off into the introduction.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  02:16

Okay, well welcome everybody to another episode of the HeadRightOut Podcast. I am so excited today. I can’t begin to tell you I have got a very good friend of mine, an inspirational lady and all round adventurer, challenge inspirer. She is an author. She’s an award winner. I’m going to go through her bio in a minute but we have got Sarah Williams, the host of the Tough Girl Podcast and founder of Tough Girl Challenges here. So good morning, Sarah.


Sarah Williams  02:47

Good morning. How you doing?


Zoe Langley-Wathen  02:48

I’m very well thank you. So I am going to introduce you, because I just felt all of the things that you have achieved over the last six or seven years just needs to be acknowledged and I don’t want to miss anything out for certain.


Sarah Williams  03:02

I’m getting ready to be embarrassed and ready to cringe. It’s a very British thing like oh my god, okay. I’m ready for it.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  03:08

You’ve got to soak this up and enjoy. So Tough Girl Challenges was started in 2014 as a way of motivating and inspiring women and girls. My mission is to increase the amount of female role models in the media with a focus on women who do adventures and undertake big physical challenges. I am the host of the two times award winning Tough Girl Podcast where I interview inspirational female explorers, adventurers, athletes and everyday women who have overcome great challenges. The podcast is listened to in 174 countries around the world and has passed 1.8 million downloads. Based on monthly downloads. The Tough Girl Podcast is in the top 15% of podcasts globally. I completed the Marathon des Sables in April 2016. That’s six marathons in six days across the Sahara Desert. In 2017, I through hiked the Appalachian Trail solo and unsupported. That’s 2190 miles in 100 days, which I also daily vlogged. In 2018 I cycled over 4000 kilometers from Vancouver, Canada via the Pacific Coast Highway to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico. I have a master’s in Women and Gender Studies from Lancaster University 2018 with my dissertation focusing on Women, Adventure and Fear. I’m a qualified yoga instructor and personal trainer (2019). In September 2019, I walked the Camino Portuguese – 675 kilometres from Lisbon, Portugal to Santiago de Compostela in Spain, and that was sponsored by challenge with Cicerone. I ended the year by walking the Lycian Way in Turkey. In 2020. I started in Australia walking the Overland Track in Tasmania. And now to celebrate the six-year anniversary of the Tough Girl Podcast I am undertaking six UK-based challenges: The Tough Girl Adventure Series, also sponsored by Cicerone. They include, and we’re going to talk about these in a moment, the Anglesey Coastal Path, the South Downs Way, the Pilgrim’s Way, the West Highland Way, climbing Ben Nevis and walking the Great Glen Way. Wow. You were smiling and we were like ‘yay, yay’. This is such a wonderful, awesome list of achievements. I feel inspired. I have to say Sarah, all the way through, I’ve been following you since we met in 2014, or was it 2015, I don’t know?


Sarah Williams  04:59

It was 2015 at the Women’s Adventure Expo.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  04:59

Yeah. I’ve always found you to be somebody who inspires me. You’re almost like a mentor from afar. Each time, I see you developing and growing, through these challenges and activities that you’re doing. And your masters in Women and Gender Studies… that absolutely fascinated me. Because you are delving deeper into the area you’re interested in. So, the area that you are interested in… tell us more… what is it?


Sarah Williams  04:59

I’m actually getting emotional, I’m going to start crying soon. It’s like ‘oh, my goodness’!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  06:06

So yeah, where does Sarah Williams come from? What is it that you’re interested in? Why? Why?


Sarah Williams  06:22

Oh, my God, the why the big question. I think I’ve always been fascinated by the motivation and the inspiration side of things in so that personal self development. So I was always sat with like Tony Robbins and reading the secret. And I used to apply it to my life when I worked in banking down in London. So that was like a big part of me. I think one of the things that I noticed when I was in banking was just a) like how male dominated it was, and obviously all the sexism and misogyny and everything else that was going on that maybe that I don’t think I really understood when I was twenty-four or twenty-five, about what I was experiencing. And I think the other side of my personality was doing these quite extreme things to shock people like wanting to run marathons, or to doing these, like these Tough Mudder races, or you know, the obstacle course races and people being like, “oh, but you’re so you’re so girly, and you’re so feminine, and you love the color pink, and yet you like running ridiculous distances and doing these crazy challenges”.


Sarah Williams  07:18

 I realised in my early 30s, that I needed to make some changes in my life. And honestly, I’m more than happy to talk in more detail about that. But to cut the long story short, I ended up leaving my job in banking in 2013, didn’t know what I wanted to do with my life, I ended up going travelling, spending time in Australia, heading over to Kilimanjaro to go and climb Kilimanjaro, I spent some time in South America. And I think for the first time a long time, I really started asking myself these important questions. What is your WHY? How do you want to spend your life, like what do you want the next ten-twenty years to look like when you are on your death bed looking back over your life? And what do you want to have experienced? And I’ve never really thought about it so much. I’d always just been on this path and just following this journey on this route, like I was on a river, but I didn’t know where I was going. I hadn’t really thought it all through. And when I was over in South America, I finally got this time to think and reflect and to really dig deeply into these subjects. And for me that involved a lot of journaling, a lot of writing, it’s been a lot of internal self reflection, which sounds wishy washy, but many people don’t spend that time getting to know themselves. And I asked myself those questions. And for me, it was about this travel and exploration. And it was about challenging myself, it was about adventure. But on the flip side of that it was the motivation and the inspiration. And I wanted to encourage other young women and  girls and I knew that I was very fortunate.


Sarah Williams  08:41

I’ve always been a confident person. And when I was 18, I went traveling a lot of it solo by myself through like Southeast Asia, Australia, New Zealand and Camp America. I think that really helped me positively in the business world. And I remember just interacting with a lot of women who maybe didn’t necessarily have that confidence to go after things. I couldn’t really understand it. And I wanted to help them to take that next step to be more confident and to embrace challenge and to say yes to different experiences, because I’ve never had a problem of saying yes. Like, you want to go traveling? Yes, you want to bungee jump? Yes. You want to jump out of a plane and skydive? Yes. Like I would always say yes. And want to experience these, these opportunities. And that’s how Tough Girl Challenges came together. It was my love of adventure and challenge and wanting to to inspire women and girls. And it’s definitely been a journey that’s evolved. I’m sure I’ve mentioned here, I started initially blogging and nobody read my blog, not even my mom because she wasn’t even technical. And you know, as I went on and did more things, I eventually started the podcast and started sharing more voices and started taking on more personal challenges like you read out. So it’s definitely been this very long and winding journey. And I almost want to say at this point as well. I always hate for people. It’s very easy, I think for now for people to look at my life and just be like, ‘oh, it’s easy for Sarah. She’s off doing these adventures and challenges and she’s being sponsored and she’s got these millions of downloads’, but actually, I started with zero, you know. I didn’t know anything, I’d built my website, I didn’t know how to podcast, I learned it all on this on this journey over the past seven years. And it’s been seven years of consistency, seven years of hard work seven years of dedication. The ups and the downs, and the setbacks and the obstacles, and the challenges and the barriers, and the sacrifices, and everything else that’s gone on that maybe people don’t necessarily see. So it hasn’t always been this smooth journey of just like, ooh, I want to become an adventurer and motivational speaker and travel the world doing adventures.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  10:37

I think that’s what’s always struck me about you, Sarah. Is that your commitment, your absolute drive and commitment to what you do and what you believe in is there. You show up every day. There’s never any ‘oh, I don’t feel well today, or I’m too tired’, or or if there is you tell us on Instagram stories. Which is great.


Sarah Williams  10:59

I’m having a pajama day!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  11:00

Yeah, that’s right. But you still show up, and and you’re still so committed, and I think those six-seven years of hard work is absolutely clear. You know, you don’t get to where you are now without having worked through that.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  11:17

What I’m interested in actually, is that you said you’ve always been resilient, you’ve always been confident. Maybe you didn’t say resilient. But you said you’ve always been confident. Now you worked in a very male-dominated environment in banking, I’m assuming? Did you find that that toughened your resilience, your mental resilience? Or were you already resilient, prior to that?


Sarah Williams  11:42

I think it to be honest, I think it almost broke me.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  11:44



Sarah Williams  11:45

Yeah, I think I was confident, I think a lot of it had to do with my parents, like being part of sporting teams. I was privately educated and there is something about privately educated, you do just build the confidence and the network and the connections with it. And I think traveling solo really helped me and I, and I would think to myself, so if I, if I was in a tough situation, like a business meeting, or whatever, where it’s just me, youngest female, everyone else is male right in their forties. And I was thinking, I’m gonna have to have some difficult conversations, I’d always reflect back and think, Sarah, you can handle this. You traveled the world, when you were eighteen. You can handle this. Stuff like that. So it was always building on experiences and everything else. But I think my resilience and my toughness did almost break me because I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t happy when I was giving it my all and from the outside everyone else thought that I should be happy with with what I was doing. And I don’t know if people work normal jobs doing a nine-to-five. Well, mine was more like six-to-11. But you have these Sunday night blues, where you’re literally just worrying and anxious about the week ahead. ‘What do I need to do? What do I need to achieve? What have I got to get done? I’ve got so much time to do it’. It was almost this cycle that you were trapped in week-by-week, month-by-month, and then year-by-year and I wanted to tough it out. Why wasn’t I tough? Why couldn’t I handle it? Why? I felt like a massive failure. When I left I thought I obviously can’t hack it in this world. But it was more about I suppose my mental health like the more I reflect I think as I’ve as it’s further in the distance, it’s easier to look back with more of a discerning eye and be like, actually no I was really very, very unhappy. And I’m so glad I left. I just don’t know where I’d be. So yeah, I think it almost broke me.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  13:36

Did you, in going off, because you then decided to travel, you must have had a period where you were almost making friends with yourself or re-finding yourself because you just said that you felt like a failure. You were mentally broken. But you had come to feel like you were a failure because you weren’t meeting whatever you were supposed to be meeting that was just completely impossible. So yeah, did you in those travels get to a point where you refound yourself.


Sarah Williams  14:04

I did, but it probably took me until after the Appalachian Trail.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  14:08



Sarah Williams  14:09

I know that sounds like a really long time. So I left my job in 2013. It wasn’t until probably the end of 2017 where I started to sort of accept myself. I think the key reason for that is that deep reflection time that I got on the Appalachian Trail being out in nature every day. Wild camping night after night. Not showering for nine days. Pushing your body, you know, really physically very, very hard. But also it was this quality time to really think, because I was I was still reflecting on myself and I think I definitely after I left work I felt so lost, like what am I going to do with my life and I didn’t have a purpose. I think for me figuring out the mission with Tough Girl Challenges to motivate inspire women girls, I suddenly had this very clear picture of the mission of what I wanted to do. What my purpose was going to be. Getting to know myself, and really know myself… what am I actually like? What drives me? What are the previous experiences which I needed to really reflect back on and do a lot of deep self analysis, to be honest?


Sarah Williams  14:17

I think sometimes this can be a very scary thing because a lot of people don’t like being alone with their own thoughts and having to actually process it. For me I found it just empowering where walking every day, just letting these situations ruminate through my head, how I responded, how I acted, things which had happened to me which had impacted on me and made me feel upset, unworthy or worthless or like a failure… and managing to get through all of that and get to a point and this will sound wishy-washy, but I know myself. I love myself. Not in that arrogant, “I love myself, I love myself”, but as in deep down, I know my value, I know my worth, I know what I’m doing. I’m just very comfortable being me and being comfortable with the decisions that I have made and embracing them.


Sarah Williams  16:12

There was this element where I was embarrassed about what I was doing. What are people going to think of me? What if I fail? People are going to judge me because I used to have this high-flying career and now suddenly I’m sleeping in the woods and I want to be an adventurer and I want to be a motivational speaker and I was worried and scared about other people’s judgements. But now I’ve got to that point where other people’s judgements of me have absolutely NOTHING to do with me at all, and I’m the one who’s got to live with myself.


Sarah Williams  16:41

So yeah, it took a long time but the Appalachian Trail was really key for that. Those three months of walking and deep, deep thinking and processing was really powerful for me, like cringey as it is to say but, life-changing. It really was a life-changing experience.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  17:04

Yep, it’s profound. That is absolutely profound, because I don’t know about you but I had never experienced that level of solo… solo company. That sounds bizarre but that time with myself when I was walking my first long-distance walk, that time with yourself is completely something that you haven’t experienced before and you don’t realise at the time perhaps that you’re going to come away feeling differently, acting differently with a different perspective on your life. Like you say, it’s those deep analytical moments. I found, (I call it my Outdoor Medicine now), but I find that time in the  outdoors is massively helpful for problem solving. So if I’ve got something I’m trying to figure out, my head’s not clear or I’m writing and I’m not quite sure what I’m going to be writing next, I can just go and walk and just keep my head empty and then all of a sudden those answers will just filter through. And it’s the longer walks that that seems to happen on… not the going out for a day… although it is still helpful… but it’s the longer walks that are the real deep dive in, and it sounds like that’s what the Appalachian Trail did for you.


Sarah Williams  17:04

Oh, a hundred percent. I totally agree, like the Outdoor Medicine, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes. I almost want everyone to experience this! Go on a long-distance walk. Multi-day hike and adventure and just be alone, know that you can survive and get through it, it’s because it’s so empowering and that’s how you build that confidence, knowing you can go out there and look after yourself. You don’t need to rely on anybody else. You’ve got the tools and the skills to do it.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  17:04

Wow, yeah. Absolutely that. So why are so many women in particular, do you think then scared of trying adventure, going on an adventure? I know you’ve perhaps touched on this area in your masters as well. I’m just keen to know where the fear comes from.


Sarah Williams  18:57

I think it I think it starts really young age actually. It’s sometimes drilled into girls, you know, protect yourself, don’t go out there. Be careful in the dark. Don’t do this. Don’t do that, and it’s almost like these micro aggressions these micro comments. I still get comments now, ‘aren’t you scared of doing by yourself?’ and ooh you know, this is like walking in England or something or you know, fly, you know, going travelling. And so people’s comments can get into your head, and people don’t realise that you’re socially conditioned from quite a young age to behave and act a certain way and not put yourself in these risky, challenging situations. And it’s really difficult to be strong enough to break out of that mould, and that’s not to say that I’m not scared when I go on adventures and challenges because you do have to follow your gut instinct. But men just don’t understand this. As a woman travelling when I was on the South Downs Way, and I was looking for somewhere to wild camp and a guy had walked past me and then he walked past the other way. And I’m now in my head thinking well, I can’t stop now. I’ve got to keep on walking. And so he’s ahead of me and I actually I filmed him because I thought well, I don’t know know who he is. So I ended up filming him from behind. So people would have a record, if something did happen. This is what goes through my head, I had to keep on walking, he pulled to the side to fiddle with his shoe laces. And now I’m ahead of him, which to me felt like this psychological game. So he’s behind me, I can’t stop walking, I’ve already walked 20 miles with a heavy backpack. And now I’m having to like, speed up, go faster, you know, to get to get ahead. And there’s this constant awareness that you need to have like, even in when I was cycling out to the Coast Highway, and in Mexico, I sort of met two guys and ended up cycling a little bit of Mexico with them. And it was it was just a mental relief, because suddenly, like men weren’t looking at me, or I wasn’t having to analyze like, everywhere I stopped. Looking around, you know, to see, right, well, who’s in there? Can I go in there? Who’s watching me? And when we broke off, suddenly it all came back, and I was having to pay so much more attention to my surroundings and my environment. To make these split second decisions, you know, who you meet up with, who you’re sharing a room with? Or who you know, who you’re chatting to in the bar? Do I trust them? Am I safe with them. All of this analysis, and it’s this, it is this fear. And so don’t get me wrong. There’s lots of different barriers and elements that make women scared and fearful. And some of them are external, and some of them are internal.


Sarah Williams  21:25

I think also for a lot of women, it’s for me, certainly, I obviously I’ve tried not to generalize, because it is different for for all women, because, you know, look, I’m white middle class, it’s very different if you’re a black woman, or a brown woman or from a minority, it definitely would be completely different. But from my perspective, it’s those fears of judgment, or what are people gonna think of me? What are they thinking about me? So I think that there’s a lot of different routes, which filter into these levels of fear. And it’s, it’s never one thing. And sometimes you’ve just got to chip away at the one barrier, which is stopping you. Sometimes it’s still also it’s things like it’s, it’s a lack of knowledge, but that’s not from a negative place. That’s from a lack of opportunity that you haven’t been exposed to these things. You know, I was very fortunate I was doing Duke of Edinburgh when I was fourteen-fifteen-sixteen years old. And so I was really opened up to that world. I knew about backpacking, camping and hiking. I’ve had these experiences or, you know, if you’ve been a member of the Girl Guides, or the Scouts and you’d have these opportunities. But if you haven’t, then you know, it’s another barrier that you have to have to end up overcoming. So yeah, multifaceted, very different, depending on the on the individual. But yeah, so I’ve gone off at a complete tangent there.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  22:45

No, you haven’t. It’s fascinating. And you know, I had a bit of a teary moment there because I know that although I had a lovely childhood, where I was able to run off into the fields and go walking, if I wanted to, I also did grow up with those messages of ‘oh, no, you shouldn’t do that’, and ‘mind that’ and ‘watch, watch where you’re going because these people around’ and other things like well, you know, ‘don’t go near the ditches because there’s a man in there that will come and pull your legs down’. And these are stories that are passed on through families, and, you know, that message that I was told was told to me to keep me away from the ditch because if I fall in it, it might be harmful. So it’s told as a story, but actually that then created a huge fear in me of these still waters because the Somerset ditches are like ditches not like ditches we have everywhere else because they’re really wide and deep and still, and they’re covered with duck weed. And they’re just they’re just, yeah, quite freaky. But so yeah, that that has only been recently that I realised that that’s where that fear comes from. So yeah, these messages are very powerful. And we don’t realise what we’re doing with our children when we tell them.


Sarah Williams  24:08

Even with little girls like, ‘don’t get dirty’, ‘don’t do that’. Don’t you know you? They’re just treated different than little boys, which were maybe encouraged to take on more risks and more adventure.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  24:22

Absolutely. So do you have a role model yourself, Sarah, somebody that you look to for inspiration or for advice? I mean, it might be a physical mentor, somebody that you speak to on a regular or ad-hoc basis or it might just be somebody that you follow in, in the media or in social media? Is there somebody that gives you inspiration because you are massively inspirational for us, but who inspires you?


Sarah Williams  24:57

I have, I mean, so so many women inspire me, like the women that I’ve interviewed, the stories that they shared are just awe inspiring. Like what they’ve done. What they’ve achieved is, is incredible. And it’s always really difficult to single somebody out. But I definitely had this connection, almost straightaway, I got introduced to Rosie Swale-Pope, who’s this wonderful, wonderful, wonderful lady. I remember the first time I spoke to her in November 2019, or maybe a couple months beforehand, and it was nothing like thatI’d ever experienced, because Rosie just talks and shares and, and she, she likes to talk and, you know I like to talk but I also I love to listen as well. And hearing her speak and Rosie was running from Brighton over to Kathmandu in Nepal and at the time she was seventy-three or seventy-four years young. She’s run around the world and she’s done all these crazy, amazing adventures and we just really connected. Listening to her and I think I was just so inspired by Rosie’s life and what she’d done. You mentioned the Lycian Way, so I was out in Turkey at that time, I finished the Lycian Way and Rosie was in Istanbul, too. So I was with my with my friend Kat and we went and met Rosie.


Sarah Williams  26:13

And it was just this I don’t know, it was just it was like meeting like a kindred spirit and just somebody who’s just so full of love and joy and optimism and her way of living, her way of looking at the world. We went on this night out, she sleeps in this little cart called Ice Chick and she leaves her trainers outside and in the morning she woke up and she messaged me saying “Oh Sarah, somebody’s stolen my trainers”. Obviously she needs the trainers to run, but it just doesn’t faze her anyway, she eventually she came across the guy who’s wearing her trainers. But Rosie’s so kind, her thought process is not how it impacts ‘me’. But it’s like, well, he needed shoes. That’s why he took them It wasn’t from a negative place. It was it was from this place of just almost survival. And so eventually I think she got her trainers back but either bought him a pair of shoes or gave him a pair of wellington boots or something that she had, but just had her joy in for living and we carried on keeping in contact after that. And we would speak on the phone and have these little WhatsApp chats and Rosie eventually ended up coming back to the to the UK because of because of COVID and she ended up, this was in 2020, she ended up running LEJOG, so from Land’s End to John O’Groats. And as she was running up it was during September and I was like ‘Rosie! You got to come and stay.’ And she was like, ‘I’d love to come and stay and meet your wonderful family!’ And so she came and stayed for my birthday – was that last year? Yeah, I think it was like yeah, and so you know, Rosie came to stay, she’s met my family and she’s just this incredible woman who’s just just amazing. So we do have these like regular conversations, and I did another Facebook Live interview with her. So she’s just an incredible role model and I think part of that is because I want to be that fit. I want to be that healthy. I want to be that strong. I want to be that resilient, when I’m in my seventies. That is the type of life that I want to be living. She’s just somebody… yeah, I’m probably just saying the same thing over again, because she’s so, so inspiring. The other lady as well, who, who I’ve spoken to a few times, I wouldn’t say that she’s like, she’s not like my mentor, but I think I really want her to be but I haven’t got the courage to say look, can we speak on a more regular basis? but is Roz Savage. Roz Savage was the first woman to row the the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. And, and I think one of the things that I love about her story is that I see myself in her as well. So she worked in, she was a management consultant until she was thirty-eight. So slightly older than me, before she packed it all in and made this massive change in her life. But I look at her and what she’s done and think well, I’ve almost got like a five-year headstart on her, you look what she’s achieved. And with the books that she’s written, the work that she’s done, the challenges that she’s done, I love her again, how she’s lived her life, this very alternative life. And so I think for me, like Roz and Rosie are very, very inspiring. Definitely sort of role models, but actually, I haven’t, I wouldn’t say that I’ve properly got like a full-on mentor, but it is something that I would love to have. I almost feel as though, not that I’m breaking new ground in this area. But because with the podcast and the adventures, like podcasting is so sort of new and niche, there’s sort of nobody else. I mean, there are the people doing it now but there’s nobody who were like ahead of me. I don’t think I know it’s not a race and it’s not about comparison. And so I sort of looked at mentors as more of them around like the adventure piece and around how they choose to live their life. But yeah, I am so lucky because my social media is amazing. I know there’s a lot of rubbish that goes on in social media, but mine’s just full of these amazing women, like ALL women, doing challenges and adventures and cycling and swimming the English Channel and doing sailing and running and planning and preparing and, and it’s just it’s just like this massive inspiration fest where it’s just like, oooh, that sounds good and oh my goodness.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  30:07

I get so much from watching them do that, don’t you?


Zoe Langley-Wathen  30:10

Yeah and so just filling your social media with those sort of people. Not the people that are hanging their dirty washing out, you know on the line, but it’s the people, the people that are inspiring you with their zest for life really. Their, ‘I want to do this’, their ability to carry out more challenges.


Sarah Williams  30:10



Sarah Williams  30:26

But things like 100 Mappy Days, watching you grow with HeadRightOut and how that’s grown and developed from the initial idea to where it is now and it’s amazing. Even Frankie, Frankie Dewar, with Extraordinary Ordinary You, like seeing that journey that she’s gone on. And Joe Moseley with the paddleboarding and inspiring women over the age of 50, and then starting her podcast. There’s so many women who it just seems to be exploding but just in such a positive way. And my challenge is I don’t know if it is, it is actually exploding, getting bigger and more women are doing this, or I’m just so immersed in the world that that’s all I see. So I don’t know if my blinkers are on and maybe it isn’t as big as I think it is.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  31:14

I think I’m in the same place as you because I’ve said to a couple of people in the past that you know, people either either met on the towpath, or people I’ve been chatting to elsewhere. I said, Oh yes, it’s these really famous people or this really well-known woman that’s doing X, Y, Z. You know, Rosie Swale-Pope, for example, and they say, ‘Who?’ And I say, ‘What do you mean, you don’t know her?!’ I read Rosie’s book, probably four years ago now. And then Mike read it as well. And we were just completely blown away by her. That was the first time I’ve actually read or heard anything about Rosie. And yes, I’ve been following her ever since and would totally agree that she is an absolute inspiration. I don’t want to keep reusing this word inspiration, but there are so many women out there who just fill you with that kick, that nudge, that poke that you need it’s like, gosh, if they can do this, why can’t I? You know, I really need to be able to jump into that arena and give it a go. Because there are so many things that I have said to myself in the past. Oh, no, I couldn’t do that. And then it’s like, well, why couldn’t you, Zoe? Why couldn’t you? So yes, and I love it, that there are so many women out there that are that are telling us that message, that are giving us that message of support and encouragement to go ahead and do it.


Sarah Williams  32:35

I’m going to say, I think this is the power of women’s voices. Because for so long, especially with like you know, it’s always the power of the internet for this for so long with like mainstream media, the radio, the TV, the newspaper, what we were exposed to was who had the power and the control of the mainstream media, which was white men. And so women’s voices weren’t being heard. Their stories weren’t being shared. And so actually with the internet, the middle men and have been removed. You know, women can start blogs, they can share their social media. You can’t get on the radio, you can start a podcast. Women aren’t being on TV, you start a YouTube channel. You can take control of the narrative and the stories because I want to hear women’s stories. I want to hear women’s voices, I am desperate to hear these things. Because to think you know, growing up in the eighties and nineties, it was just men’s stories, men’s voices. History, ‘his story’ that women and girls grew up with. And we need these voices. We need the films, the books, everything, because Stacey Copeland said that passion, if you can’t see it, you can’t become it. And I’d always follow that on if you can’t, well, how did they do? It is brilliant seeing women in these positions, but actually, it’s the how, how did they do it? Like? How do they pay for it? How did they decide on the challenge? What did they do when they did fail? How do they deal with all those setbacks? And so, yeah, women’s voices for the win!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  33:56

Definitely. So, even though you might not have a personal mentor, I still think that, you know, we can have mentors that are from afar, you know, they might not know they’re our mentors, but they they definitely are. So what would you say, was the best piece of advice or quote that you might have ever gained from one of those women that inspire you? Is there something that sticks with you?


Sarah Williams  34:22

I think one of the… well, there’s a couple of things. One is about… I don’t necessarily think this is for a woman, I think this is from a man, so somebody else who’s inspired me maybe more like the marketing side and building a business, building a brand is this guy, I think I mentioned to you is called Gary Vaynerchuk.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  34:43



Sarah Williams  34:44

And the key thing that I remember thinking about was just about having to think long term. And I think Tony Robbins said that, you know people overestimate what they can achieve in a year and underestimate what they can achieve in a decade. And I think that’s really helped me to view things. From this really sort of long term perspective as in, I used to be very, very impatient many years ago, you know I decide what I wanted to go after, and I expected it to happen like, straightaway, I couldn’t understand why, you know, things weren’t happening. And now I probably matured or my patience level has grown into an extent where I know things that they do take time. And so I think for me, one of the biggest things, just having this long term perspective, so I don’t think in for Tough Girl Challenges I’ve never thought in terms of just a couple of years, I’ve always thought of like, what’s it going to be like, in ten years and fifteen years time, when I’ve got one thousand episodes of the Tough Girl Podcast, when women are like, well, I want to go to visit the poles, okay. Well, I’ve spoken to every woman who’s been to the poles who’s alive. Or they want to go and cycle the transcontinental, I’ve spoken to all the women who’ve done it. Women, they’ve got these stories, and we can also follow their journey as well. So speaking to women, the example like Anna McNuff speaking to her after her New Zealand cycle, and speaking to her after her South American adventure and speaking to her after her Barefoot Britain challenge. So there’s almost this historical journey that can be tracked as well for these women to see. Look, they didn’t just end up climbing Mount Everest. Like this is how they started, this is their journey, this is their progress. And so thinking long term, being patient, I think that’s, that’s probably the best advice that I’ve ever heard is, you know, be patient show up every day. There’s a great book as well, it sort of links in with this, it’s called The Slight Edge. I always forget the author’s name, Jeff, Jeff, something or other.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  36:34

We can find it.


Sarah Williams  36:35

Yeah, but it’s basically about being consistent. Like, like he said, it’s showing up every day. It’s, you know, putting out the episodes, putting out the content, being proactive on social media, engaging. So I’ve said that again. But yeah, being patient thinking long term, I think, is incredibly powerful. Because, you know, even HeadRightOut. Where are you going to be in 10 years time? It’s amazing to think about, with the podcast now. So in 2021, you know, you could have… I’m trying to do my mental maths…, one episode a week… you could have nearly 500 episodes out.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  37:11



Sarah Williams  37:11

The more women that you’ve connected with, and shared with, the more stories that have been told, the more voices that have gotten out there. And I think that’s sometimes what keeps me going is that thinking long term, and also thinking about the legacy I want to leave behind.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  37:25

That legacy, what you were saying then, something just clicked in my head. And it wasn’t the word legacy but it was like library, it was wealth, wealth of information. You know, you’re not just inspiring the women of today, it’s the women of the future. It’s the young girls, it’s the children that haven’t even been born. And having that hub, that place that people can go to, to hear those stories, that wealth of information is just absolutely imperative. We need that. We definitely need that.


Sarah Williams  38:03

I didn’t know about the Appalachian Trail or the Continental Trail Divide, or that women could go and cycle the Pacific Coast. I didn’t know about these adventures and challenges. And now I think growing up, hopefully, these young girls who are you know, seventeen-eighteen and maybe want to take gap years or you know, making these decisions about their life. They can listen to these women saying, actually, you know, I don’t need to go straight on to university. I don’t need to get a job doing this. Actually, I can follow my passions and my interest and have faith that it will all turn out right in the end. And yeah, it’s exciting for me that girls are going to grow up with these voices and also being able to see their role models on TV or watch them on YouTube. I think it just opens so many doors. So yeah, really exciting, really exciting time.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  38:48

And you are definitely flying that flag, Sarah, so fabulous. Right. I’m going to switch now into a different tone. So I turned fifty this year and there is also another big birthday this year. In the same year, in fact, this week we are recording this today. Is it the eighth it must be Yes, it’s the eighth of September today. 2021. And in two day’s time, there’s a rather big event happening, Sarah Williams. Sarah, what happens on Friday?


Sarah Williams  39:23

Well it’s the 10th of September and I’m turning forty!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  39:28



Sarah Williams  39:30

It’s amazing. And I’m so happy and content and excited because also, I don’t know how turning thirty was for you. But turning thirty for me was just the most horrendous experience. It was awful. Like I wasn’t where I wanted to be in my life. I just felt like why aren’t I married? Why don’t I have kids and all of this sort of thing and honestly I wasn’t very content with with other areas of my life. And to me now, like turning forty, a) to be honest, I think it’s actually it’s a real privilege to age like, I’ve really thought about this a lot, you know, especially when you lose friends, when, when you’re, like, I lost a good friend when I was eighteen. And, you know, losing friends throughout the years, you think, wow, it’s actually it’s a privilege to get to this age, it’s a privilege to grow older. But even more, so it’s just, it’s where my life is now. So things that I dreamed about, you know, all those years ago, when I was in South America, on these buses, about the type of life that I wanted to lead, I am leading that life. I have designed this life that works for me, and I do get to work on these adventures and challenges I can work from anywhere in the world, as long as I have Wi-Fi and a laptop and a mobile phone. I’m, I’m super good. And so I just feel so content, happy, joyful, just really, just in a really good space. And just also just really excited about the next decade, like just wanting to be strong, fit and healthy and spend the next ten years just really maximizing life and challenges and getting out there and just, you know, living life to the full and living life on my terms and having this freedom of choice and freedom of where to go. It’s so yeah, turning forty is just, it’s an honor, like, I’m like, I don’t know. Haha!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  41:22

That makes me so happy to hear because, you know, there are so many women that… I see it on social media. You know they’re saying, ‘oh my gosh, I’m hitting forty’ or ‘oh, my gosh, I’m hitting fifty’, particularly this year, because my school year, you know, we all hit our fiftieth this year or end of last year. And for the most part, most people are enjoying it and realising that there’s absolutely no difference but you know, there are some that like ‘oh my gosh, I’m over the hill’ and it’s just trying to say ‘no, you’re not, this is just the start. This is this is the start of the next chapter, the next stage’. And what you’ve done is you’ve set yourself up to transition into that stage with a positive attitude and with making sure you’ve got all your tools there. And it’s such an exciting time. And that’s what really, I mean, I wanted to have you on the podcast ages ago anyway, but I had decided in my head that I wanted to interview midlife women. Midlife and up. And you weren’t forty at that point. And I thought well, here we go. This is an ideal opportunity to introduce you to midlife and introduce you to other midlife women and other younger women who are going to be looking forward to coming into midlife. You know with such positivity, so yes. Happy Birthday in advance for Friday.


Sarah Williams  42:53

Thank you.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  42:54

So let’s talk about then what you’ve been doing for the last couple of months, actually for the last month, and coming on into September. So I know that your series, your adventure series, is to celebrate the sixth birthday of the Tough Girl Podcast, but I’m assuming it’s kind of around your birthday as well to help celebrate your fortieth birthday? Would you like to share?


Sarah Williams  43:18

Well I’ve got something else for my fortieth, which I haven’t shared, but I can share that with you.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  43:22

That’s exciting. A nugget!


Sarah Williams  43:23

Oooh, ooh it is, it’s a real gem actually. But also wouldn’t it be amazing if when we speak again, maybe in like ten years time when I’m turning fifty to be able to reflect back on like the next ten year journey, I think that will be so exciting


Sarah Williams  43:28

We’ll aim to do a birthday bonus every ten years.


Sarah Williams  43:39

Yes!! That would be incredible because it would just reflect on the journey. But I mean the Tough Girl… obviously 2020 was just such a tough year and I very fortunately I started my year in Australia walking the Overland Track and then in March I literally flew back into the country before I got locked down and so there hasn’t been any travel and adventure for me for quite a long time. And and for me I wanted to be double vaccinated. I wanted it to be more appropriate for me to go and travel and adventure. And a part of my way of coping was planning adventures and challenges and I was looking around the UK of the different walks and the National Trails and there’s a HUGE amount to do especially in the UK with even if you just walking and cycling and everything else. I’ve been thinking a lot – I haven’t really ventured that much in the UK. Because as you probably know, I hate the cold weather. And our UK summers are sometimes not the best. You have four days of sunshine and then it’s rain and gray skies. But it all basically all came together. How did it come together? Well, actually, it also links to Rosie because I’d been invited to this running festival called Run Fest Run which was down in Winchester, and Rosie when she’s not travelling, she lives on like the South Downs Way. So I was thinking, wouldn’t it be lovely to catch up with Rosie on the way and then I was thinking oh well I could walk the South Downs Way. That would be pretty great. Then I was just googling around other walks near Winchester, and it came up on on the Cicerone website about the Pilgrims Way. And that goes from Winchester to, I was going to say Eastbourne, but it’s not. It’s Canterbury. And then I have a friend in London who I wanted to catch up with, and then I realised, ‘oh my auntie, she lives in Guildford’! That’s literally on the way. So, you know, when things… I believe in… serendipity when things start to fit together. I’ve been wanting to do a walk with another girl called Alex Mason, who’s a phenomenal adventure and hiker. And we’ve been in contact for many years, but never actually met. And we were we were talking about walking LEJOG in April of this year. But the timing didn’t work and COVID was still all over the place. So that didn’t come across. And so I just mentioned to her that, hey, I’m thinking of doing the Anglesey Coastal Path, would you be free? She was like, yes! She was coming. She had just walked Hadrian’s Wall. So she was coming back down. And so it all started to come together. So we ended up walking Anglesey Coastal Path, which was incredible and beautiful and amazing, with the stunning scenery and wild camping and this seven-eight day adventure, which was just pretty brutal, because I hadn’t had my backpack on for quite a while. And so you know, the first couple of days while your body’s adapting and feeling super sore. So we did the Anglesey Coastal Path and I’m filming it and vlogging it as well, so there are all these videos that’ll be coming out in the next couple of months.


Sarah Williams  46:25

But it’s just nice to be honest, to be out in nature again, and to be around people and to  be walking. I like achieving things and so to feel as though I’m actually achieving something. So yes, I’ve just finished my third trail. So I’ve done the Anglesey Coastal Path. I walked the South Downs Way, one hundred miles from Eastbourne to Winchester, and I’ve just come back from the Pilgrims Way, which was really, really beautiful and stunning. And so I’ll have a little bit of break and then I’ll be heading up to Scotland to walk the West Highland Way, climb Ben Nevis and then do the Great Glen Way.


Sarah Williams  46:57

But I mentioned about for my 40th, and I’ve been thinking a lot about this, I’m thinking by the time I reach the Great Glen Way, I’m gonna be pretty fit. I feel pretty strong and fit. I did a little bit of running actually with my pack, which was awesome, on the Pilgrims Way. And I was thinking, well, the Great Glen Way is basically seventy-eight miles running from Fort William over to Inverness, and it’s pretty flat. And I was thinking, well, maybe when I finish that, I’ve got two options. And I’m almost… I’m actually going to talk about them, because I think that’s a powerful way of getting the story out there. I was thinking, could I do the Great Glen Way in a day? Could I? When I say a day, I mean like continuously. So just start at like, four or five in the morning. Just see how long it takes me to walk seventy-eight miles. So that was option one, which I don’t know, it’s just ridiculous. Because the longest I’ve ever done is is when I ran fifty-two miles on the Marathon des Sables. And then the other option I was thinking of is wouldn’t it be awesome to maybe do forty miles? I don’t know, that seems more attainable, maybe a little bit more realistic. And then like, you know, to celebrate my fortieth birthday walking forty miles along the Great Glen Way. This is after – I will have already walked it in one direction. So I will finished all the six challenges. This is just for for fun. Even more, an extra. And then I think well I try both of them. So I could say yeah, like start with the forty-miler, see how I get on, see how my body’s doing? And then see if I’m like, ‘okay, let’s just push on’.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  48:27

Just go for it. It is like an ultra marathon and there are people who walk ultramarathons across this continuous. Yes, yes. That sounds amazing. And I don’t see any reason why you won’t be able to achieve that.


Sarah Williams  48:46

Well I should give it a go.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  48:47

Yeah, yeah, yeah, definitely.


Sarah Williams  48:49

Well, the challenge is more having the backpack because the backpack is pretty, I’ve got pretty lightweight equipment because I’d have my tent and sleeping gear and all of that sort of stuff with me. So it wouldn’t properly be fast packing. But as long as my food wasn’t too heavy, and I kept my water weight down. I’d have to get regular water on the way.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  49:12

Would you consider doing it supported, or do you want to do it unsupported? Do you want to just go back and carry on?


Sarah Williams  49:18

I want to do unsupported? Yeah, I suppose I just don’t like having to rely on other people if that makes sense. Where it’s just like, I want it to be about me. Just me having to figure this out and having that internal battle, like ‘Sarah, if you’re hurting and you’re in pain, like you should stop, just stop, put your tent up’ and then the other Sarah saying ‘no! Carry on, you’re committed!’ Walk the forty miles and then finish, it’s like oh, how are you feeling? Check in with myself and then carry on. So that’s one thing because I need to go back to Fort William anyway. So yeah, are the dogs barking again?


Sarah Williams  49:24

I don’t know what’s going on out there! It’s like, it’s a pack!


Sarah Williams  49:57

They’re excited. They’re excited about my challenging adventure!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  50:01

I think they’re hounds. They look like…


Sarah Williams  50:06

Yeah, I can hear them now quite, yeah.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  50:08

I mean, we normally get interruptions with a dog barking, but this is like a pack of them. But yes, I think they are hugely excited about your plans. I think that sounds wonderful. And it’s, it’s got to be something that you can [sniggers] pick on, it’s got to be something that you can just go with and say, ‘right, I can do this’. And then at the point where you think, actually, ‘you know what, no, I can’t do it any more’, like, as you said, you can then battle you can negotiate, you can self coach, you can talk yourself through. And I think that’s, you know, as we both know, that’s where the biggest learning in our lives happens. And we could say that Sarah Williams has done X, Y, Z, and A, B, C, over the last seven years of challenges, what more has she got to challenge herself with? But we have always got things to challenge ourselves haven’t we? I think that’s what I’ve learned is that there is never an end to raising that bar and challenging yourself and seeing how far you can go, just stepping just that little bit further beyond what you’re capable of each time. And I love that you having completed all these six challenges, when you’ve done it are still looking to make that challenge stretch a little bit further just to see what you’re capable of.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  51:39

Okay, so this is fabulous. I am kind of thinking that we need to wrap up a little bit now. But there’s some things I want to ask you. And one of them in particular is what do you fear? Because Sarah that I know, IS resilient. She is confident. She’s a go-getter. She’s a, ‘I’m gonna do this, I’m a come what may, I’m going to have a go at this, and just see what happens’. So, but are there things that you fear? And if so, how do you deal with them?


Sarah Williams  52:18

It’s such a good question. And I do think about this a lot. And I don’t know if I necessarily have fears, or it’s more like I just have very strong dislikes. So I hate being cold and wet. But it’s not, it’s not a fear of mine, like because I’ve been cold and wet and I know I can handle it. I just really dislike it and find it very unpleasant. It’s not something that I would ever choose to do, or but like on the Anglesey Coastal Path, it rained for three or four out of the seven days or whatever. What do I fear? I don’t know, I don’t know that I…? That’s not a good answer. Because I don’t think there’s anything that I necessarily fear. I mean, there’s things which I’ve thought about, but then I choose not think about it anymore, like I’m fearful of being in a situation, like a natural environment situation that I can’t control. So being caught in a fire, or being in an avalanche-type situation. Yet, I think it’s that in terms of things which you’re in the wrong situation at the wrong time. For example, if you were at Everest Base Camp when the when the earthquake happened, I think… but again, I’m not… I’m not… am I fearful of that? Because also, that’s something I don’t have any control over, so there’s no point in being fearful of something I have no control over. I don’t think I have a good answer to this question. Because I don’t think I’m necessarily fearful of… not of anything. I’m sure I am, like fear. But no, sorry.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  53:50

That’s okay. I think actually what you’ve said, Sarah makes a lot of sense. Because it might be that you’re not fearful. What you’re doing, you’ve reframed what would be fear for other people, you’ve reframed it as something else. And so you ignore it, or if you can’t change it, because, for example, some people might not choose to travel to a country where earthquakes happen a lot, because they don’t want to get caught up in an earthquake. But, you know, if you’re going to do that, you know, you might end up not going to Japan or San Francisco, for example, because there are records of many earthquakes there. But you’re saying, well, actually, it’s not in my control. So therefore, I don’t worry about it. So your reframing of that fear means that it’s no longer a fear.


Sarah Williams  54:43

I think that’s pretty accurate.


Sarah Williams  54:45

Yeah. Yeah. Because there are situations that you can end up in which is just bad timing. You’re in the wrong place at the wrong time. Like when I was, we were talking about this the other day, actually, when when I was 20, I was over in New York before the Twin Towers. So I was actually right opposite the buildings when they came down. I was in New Jersey, and I was meant to be flying out on the 12th of September, and couldn’t actually get in contact with my… because all the phone lines were down… wasn’t able to connect with my parents. I was stuck in the New Jersey side. What do we do? I think I was too young to really understand it. But that’s wrong time wrong place like and you’ve got no control over that. You’ve got the only thing you can control is your actions maybe around that situation and how you respond to the situation.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  54:45



Zoe Langley-Wathen  55:36

Sounds to me, like you’ve got a good toolbox, you’ve got everything, all the equipment you need in there to handle what life throws at you. And I think that’s really healthy.


Sarah Williams  55:48

Oh, I hope so.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  55:49

Yeah, yeah, no, it’s amazing. Okay, so the final question, and this is the question that I ask everybody, Sarah, is, do you have a HeadRightOut moment? I’m collecting moments, I’m collecting scenarios or situations where you’ve been in that place where you’ve really had to step out your comfort zone. It might not have been something that you were frightened of necessarily. But have you had to step out of your comfort zone are you able to recall and retell that for us, for the benefit of our listeners?


Sarah Williams  56:25

Yeah, I think one of the… so when I first started with Tough Girl Challenges, I wanted to launch myself onto the adventure scene, and one of the ways to do that is to take on this big scary physical challenge. And like I’ve mentioned before, you know, I’d run multiple marathons before. I’d run London Marathon like five times, so I knew that 26.2 miles was massively inside my my comfort zone, but running further than that, and running multiple back-to-back marathons and across the Sahara Desert was something which was so far outside my comfort zone. That you know, it scared me. I got the butterflies in my stomach, but my HeadRightOut moment was how I messed up. So the first time round, I was meant to do this in 2015. And I ended up overtraining, chronic fatigue, bed-bound, my hair was falling out, I had severe acne on my face and my shoulders, my weight was dropping, my left eye was deteriorating, like I’d had like a panic attack. There’s a lot going on health-wise, and I was still thinking I’d be able to go ahead and do this race. You have to get an ECG done, and you have to get a doctor’s note and a sign off. And it was literally like, you cannot do this race, like you are not well enough to do this race. But mentally, I’m like, ‘yes, I can!’. But I couldn’t, physically I was, I was exhausted. If I brushed my teeth. That was a massive achievement for the whole day. I would go downstairs to eat dinner with my sunglasses on because it was too bright. I would literally go down, eat food, get up back to bed, and I was done. But for me, the HeadRightOut moment was was once I was better, living with this fear that if I pushed myself physically too hard, that I was going to revert back to that space where I was. And that scared me. That worried me, because I’d never wanted to return to feeling that ill, that tired and that demotivated, and that rundown. And I postponed the race for a year, and luckily I had insurance, so that was all good.


Sarah Williams  58:16

But going for the race again, for me, it changed in my head, the space where I wanted to be, it wasn’t about finishing the race. For me, it was actually just getting to the start line. Just getting to the start line, fit, strong and healthy. And that was a key moment, just getting to the start line. And then I just enjoyed myself for the race and we had a brilliant time and loved it. And I you know, I was in my element running in the sunshine and the heat, but it was also finishing the race and getting the medal round around my neck that was another ‘drawing a line in the sand’ moment. Whereas I think I’ve proven to myself, well Sarah, you stepped outside your comfort zone. You headed out there. You’ve got yourself in that mental space where you COULD do it. You did push your body, you pushed your body hard. You ran multiple marathons, you ran that fifty-two miles in a day, and actually you’re not broken. You’re still fit, you’re still strong. And actually this is your new starting point. This is your new life that you want to build, you CAN do big physical challenges. And so I think those were really probably those two moments like that first initial failure almost knowing how to step up again to put myself back in the same situation and beat the feeling that scared and worried about what if I do revert back… and then not reverting back and accepting that actually I can do this and being just really proud of myself, and just thinking yeah, you do you know what,  I’ve done really well in this situation and that this is my (as cheesy as it sounds), this is my new life. This is my new way of living and it’s just exciting and wonderful and joyful and yay!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  59:59

It sounds pivotal, absolutely pivotal, that moment. And I think what I’ve learned over the years now, particularly in teaching is that those moments of I don’t like saying ‘failure’, but those moments of where things didn’t go as we planned, are such massive learning stages. And so many women and girls don’t want to face those, they don’t want to be in touch with that failure side, that they don’t want to feel like it’s all gone wrong. But those are the most important times. And what you’ve just recounted to us is that that is a building block for success. And so many times, we have tried to do something and it’s not gone the way we wanted it to, we have then just gradually built up to a place where we can because we’ve then got the knowledge. And you had the knowledge about your body and what you were capable of. And yeah, what you knew you shouldn’t be doing with overtraining is, yeah, is an amazing story. And I love that story of your the Marathon des Sables training, first time around, and second time around. So thank you, thank you so much for sharing that.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:01:10

Well, Sarah, we’ve come to the end of our conversation. I’m sure…


Sarah Williams  1:01:16

Noooo! Let’s keep on talking!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:01:17

We probably will after this… I’m sure there’s gonna be a lot of women listening to this that would love to know, if they don’t already know you, where they can find out more about you. Where should they go?


Sarah Williams  1:01:29

Oh, please go visit toughgirlchallenges.com. It is basically the main central hub. There is more information about me and my different challenges. But it’s also like Zoe mentioned before, it lists this library and this resource of incredible women and their stories. And it’s broken down by year, but just scroll through and you will find the cyclists and runners and sailors and oh, I’ve tried to get… who else… rugby players and boxers and kick boxers, and athletes, and Olympians, and grandmas, and just incredible women. So you know, have a look through their stories. But if you visit toughgirlchallenges.com, all of the information is there. New episodes of the podcast go live every Tuesday and Thursday at 7 am, UK time. So you can follow me on Instagram @ToughGirlChallenges. You will literally be bombarded with amazing women doing awesome challenges. So if you’re needing that little bump, that little added extra inspiration and motivation, then you can find it on the Tough Girl Podcast. It’s all free to listen to. So there’s probably over 450-470 odd episodes now, out there, so…


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:02:32



Sarah Williams  1:02:33

That’s a lot of me… a lot of me… a lot of my voice… a lot of my content…


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:02:36

…and a lot of other people as well. And it is fabulous. And this is my opportunity to say thank you to you, Sarah for starting me off on my podcast journey because you introduced me to listening to podcasts. You then introduced me to speaking on podcasts, when you invited me to come and be a guest on the Tough Girl Podcast back in 2017, I think that was, and then again a couple of years later. And then you kept encouraging me and you know, just sowing that seed that I could do this, myself. You know, you should start a podcast, you should. And you just kept telling me this. And eventually it’s like ‘yes, I’ve got to do this’. So thank you, Sarah. Yes, I’ve got you to thank.


Sarah Williams  1:03:20

Well, no, thank you and a massive well done for starting your podcast. I’m so proud of you. I would just say always remember, I ran that workshop in 2018. And I remember hearing you speak for the first time and I was literally just blown away by your story and your voice and your storytelling. And even then I was thinking you have to start a podcast!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:03:38

Awww bless you. Thank you. Well, Sarah Williams, thank you so much for coming on the HeadRightOut Podcast. (I nearly said the Tough Girl Podcast!) And have a very, very happy birthday on Friday. Happy 40th. Welcome to midlife! You are going to absolutely smash it. I know.


Sarah Williams  1:04:01

Oh, thank you so much. It’s been awesome chatting to you and just so much fun and bring on midlife, like Oh My God, I’m excited!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:04:08

Yeah, fabulous!


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:04:16

My goodness, I hope you enjoyed that episode. As much as I did it. We had such a blast talking. And when Sarah and I get together, we always chat a lot. And yeah, it just felt so fulfilling and so rich to be able to go over some of those things with her. Now, apologies for the sound quality. This is the nature of living on a narrowboat. We do get disturbances from time to time, which we can’t help. Unfortunately, I also have a mobile router, which means that my Wi-Fi is mobile, it’s not connected, you know hardwired in so occasionally it does dip in and out. I’d hoped that it was going to be a little bit stronger than that, that particular day. I’m now recording in a room, in a house, so I’ve moved location to do this little recording. And unfortunately, we have got a different sound quality again, because it’s echoing I’m trying to avoid that happening. But we’re here for a few weeks now. So I need to obviously work on trying to get that particular sound ambience right in here.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:05:22

So my takeaways from that recording, I find Sarah’s willingness to try new things and her honesty about why she isn’t fearful of doing new stuff to be truly thought provoking. I think the key there is that she may feel fear or she might be uncertain about doing stuff, but she knows how to deal with it, instead of closing the door on a potential opportunity. And that’s what I love and why I’ve been advocating the Tough Girl Podcast for so long now. I just find that my inspiration tank gets refuelled so many times by the Tough Girl Podcast. So why wouldn’t I want to shout about it, and, of course the lovely Sarah.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:06:06

So the next two episodes of the HeadRightOut Podcast will be with Helen Jenkins, who is the founder of Blorenge SUP, here in South Wales. That’s a smashing little episode. And we’ve also got Cherry Hamrick, who is an uber adventurer, a 73-year old who has been walking every day now for hundreds, and I mean literally hundreds of days. So I hope you will join us for that.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:06:32

Don’t forget to hit the follow button or subscribe in whichever podcast app you are listening to this to. I would love for you to share the podcast with a friend to help us grow. And as we were talking about multi-day hikes today with Sarah, if you are thinking about going off on a multi-day hike yourself, I would love to recommend for you to head over… see what I did there… to the HeadRightOut website where you can download a free guide from me called Packing For a Multi-Day Hike. I list in there, all the things that I carry when I go off on my own long-distance adventures, and there is a kit list, with all of the weights of the items as well. Okay, hopefully you will find that useful.


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:07:17

So we’re going to finish with a quote from Sarah from the episode that you’ve just listened to. This is my takeaway quote, which I just resonate with 100%. “Go on a long distance walk. Be alone. Know that you can survive and get through it. It’s so empowering. And that’s how you build that confidence. Knowing you can go out there and look after yourself. You’ve got the tools and the skills to do it.”


Zoe Langley-Wathen  1:07:50

Amen. Hallelujah. 100%, thank you Sarah Williams. Okay, well, that’s it from me for this episode. Thank you for tuning in and listening to the HeadRightOut Podcast. And I hope to see you next time. Take care. HeadRightOut Hugs to you all.


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