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Defiant Optimism
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Defiant Optimism

Author: Smiley Movement

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Defiant Optimism shares powerful conversations with everyday heroes who go above and beyond to raise awareness, and money, for causes close to their hearts. From ultra marathons, to world record breakers, and 24-hour dances, to English channel swims, these people put mind over matter to achieve the unachievable – and give back to others in the process. What does it truly mean to be a defiant optimist?
10 Episodes
Jessica Mullins and her teammates rowed the Atlantic at the beginning of 2022, taking part in the Talisker Whisky Atlantic Challenge.It's been dubbed the 'World's Toughest Row': a 3,000 mile  mission from La Gomera, Spain to Antigua. It is an extreme endurance race dubbed one of the most challenging endurance races in the world.Jessica was the Skipper and Project Manager of their four mixed team, IN DEEP SHIP and she put their international team together two years ago. Overall, they raised around £70,000 to run the campaign and donate to their chosen charities on the challenge. We spoke to Jessica about why she decided to take it on, what it was actually like, and how it feels to have completed it... plus gained a World Record!CHAPTER MARKERS:0:00: Introduction to Jessica1:31: What inspired the challenge4:00: Recruiting the team6:03: What the training was like7:58: What a typical day was like9:33: What helped get you through?12:33: How was it nearing the end of the challenge?15:15: How it felt to finish16:55: Raising money for 3 charities19:51: Advice for others23:14: Winning a World Record26:15: What does defiant optimism mean to you?Find out more about the team: to their chosen charities: Jessica:
In 2011, Yvonne Booth designed and created the '10 in 10' challenge – to climb 10 peaks in 10 hours in the Lake District. She designed it as a response to her husband Duncan’s diagnosis with Multiple Sclerosis in 2010 at the age of 39. Multiple Sclerosis is a debilitating neurological disease with no cure. As a wife and mother, she wanted to do something positive and help raise money for research into this cruel illness. Since then, Yvonne has run the event once a year – raising money for the MS Society UK. The challenge now sees hundreds of fundraisers climb 10 mountains in 10 hours, and she has also introduced the option to climb 5 mountains in 5 hours.We caught up with Yvonne to find out more about the event, what it's like to undertake, and how you can get involved. CHAPTER MARKERS1:19: How the 10 in 10 came about6:14: Why climbing mountains?8:13: What it's like doing 10 in 109:57: How people get through it11:43: Raising money for MS Society UK15:14: Reaching each peak16:34: The 2022 challenge17:51: Advice for others20:01: What does it mean to Duncan?21:23: What does defiant optimism mean to you?23:11: Where to find out more23:42: Closing remarksFind out more about the 10in10: the MS Society UK:
Annie Brooks is an award-winning blogger, who has been on a mission to raise awareness of her condition. She has epilepsy in the form of complex, simple and absence seizures. She was only diagnosed in 2012 after years of unknowingly suffering – she can be wide awake, but essentially, experiencing something ridiculously scary and unable to communicate.Before lockdown, she started doing 12 challenges in 12 months, to increase awareness of epilepsy. "My story is unique, and I hope inspirational, in that despite having a condition like this, you can still live a full active life, including doing triathlons," she says. In this episode, she speaks about the challenges she did and which ones were the hardest, as well as why the mental challenge was sometimes more difficult than the physical ones. CHAPTER MARKERS:1:16: Inspiration behind the challenge3:26: Preparation6:03: The physical challenges that pushed me8:51: The mental challenges to get through11:05: Finishing the 12 in 12 challenge13:57: Raising awareness of epilepsy15:34: Advice for others20:02: What does defiant optimism mean to you?20:58: What's next for Annie?Follow Annie's journey: Epilepsy Society:
The Putney Gumps are two friends – Johnnie Wraith and Adam Constable – in London,  who have been completing various running challenges over the past 15 years to raise money for charity. They've raised more than £250,000. In 2018, they completed 12 marathons in 12 months and raised over £76,000. Before that, they ran 126 miles over two races within a week, raising well over £36,000. They also ran the 65km Great Strides Ultra Marathon, raising over £10,000. Most recently, in 2021, the pair did 7 marathons in 7 days. The pair raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Trust and the Downs Syndrome Association. We sat down with Adam to find out more about the challenges and how the pair have carried on going all these years.CHAPTER MARKERS:0:22: Introduction to Adam1:23: The beginning of our running journey2:45: Deciding on the challenges5:59: How they get through the challenges8:35: 7 marathons in 7 days11:05: Raising more than £250k12:35: Inspiration behind the challenges13:57: The impact of the fundraising15:29: Advice for others17:24: Getting through mental blocks18:56: What’s next for the Putney Gumps19:47: What does defiant optimism mean to you?Find out more about them: to the Down's Syndrome Association: to the Cystic Fibrosis Trust: 
16-year-old Jacob Reddy decided to use his summer holidays to busk in every city in England – all 51 of them – to raise money for a charity that looked after his brother.He performed in all weathers, with big audiences and small ones – and managed to raise nearly £10,000 in the process. Jacob was raising money for Derian House, a Chorley-based children’s hospice that provides respite and end-of-life care to more than 400 babies, children and young people with life-limiting conditions.  It was the hospice where his brother, Joseph, received regular care. Joseph contracted meningitis when he was one month old, and the infection left his brain severely damaged. Joseph would have been 21 this year, so Jacob and his family wanted to mark the occasion in a special way. We speak to Jacob about his tour – the reaction he got, the money he raised, and how he felt. CHAPTER MARKERS:1.17: Why I wanted to do this challenge2.55: Preparing for the road trip4.00: Notable moments while busking5.56: Inspiration behind the challenge6.57: The impact for Derian House charity8.00: Further fundraising after the challenge10.02: Advice for others14.11: The best songs of the trip15.23: The finish line16.27: What’s next for Jacob?17.29: What does defiant optimism mean to you?18.43: Where to find out moreSupport the charity: to Jacob's fundraising page: Jacob and his music:
Andy Stone is on a triathlon challenge. He started with doing the "17s" (17-mile triathlons for 17 days), built up to the "35s" (35-mile triathlons in 35 days) and is now looking to achieve a World Record by completing the "70s" (70.3-mile triathlons in 70 consecutive days) – raising money along the way. He has already raised money for the Blue Marine Foundation, the Shark Trust and the Stroke Association through his challenges, and is looking to raise even more with latest challenge for mental health and addiction charities. As a former alcoholic, Andy speaks about overcoming challenges to get to where he is today, and the importance of mindset in "achieving the unachievable". CHAPTER MARKERS:1.26: Inspiration behind the challenge3.33: Completing 17 triathlons initially6.40: What did a day look like?7.53: Aiming for the 70-mile triathlons in 70 days10.49: Alcohol addiction and recovery13.05: Fundraising for charities and how I chose them15.35: The feeling of accomplishment17.12:  What advice would you give to others?20.38: What does defiant optimism mean to you?Follow Andy's journey: the Blue Marine Foundation: the Shark Trust: the Stroke Association:
Joanna Stokoe raised more than £15,000 in a solo charity swim across the English Channel, completing the 21-mile swim in 15 and a half hours. As an oncologist, she chose to raise money for the Sussex Cancer Fund and the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation – two charities that are connected with her day-to-day work with cancer patients.She was preparing for the endurance swim for more than two years. On episode 4 of Defiant Optimism, we speak to her about what it took to train, what it's like to swim the English Channel, and how she managed to complete it. CHAPTER MARKERS0.00-1.40 - Introduction1.40-2.49 - How you swim the English Channel2.49-3.48 - The actual swim3.48-7.06 - ’The difficult bit was the end’7.06-10.41 - Smashing the fundraising target10.41-12.59 - The impact on the charities12.59-14.35 - The planning and prep14.35-17.12 - ‘You have to think you can do it’17.12-18.39 - Tips for fundraising challenges18.39-21.11 - What does defiant optimism mean to you?Follow Joanna on Twitter: and find out more about the Sussex Cancer Fund: and find out more about the Roy Castle Lung Cancer Foundation:
Anne-Marie Martin is a professional dancer and the founder of diddi dance, a national franchise network of dancing activities for children. In June 2020, she took on the challenge of dancing non-stop for 24 hours.The music started at 10am on Saturday 27 June, and ended on 10am on Sunday 28 June – and she had fellow diddi dancers, as well as friends and family, help her along the way. She was raising money for national children’s charity, Caudwell Children.Listen to our chat as we discuss what moves got her through, how she felt as the music finally switched off, and why fundraising for Caudwell Children was so important to her. CHAPTER MARKERS:1.03: How the idea came about4.09: How the 24-hour danceathon worked7.19: A lowdown on the dance moves9.30: The final song and dance10.43: Raising money for Caudwell Children13.45: Tips for fundraising15.47: What got her through16.58: What does defiant optimism mean to you?18.27: Where to find out moreFind out more about Diddi Dance: to Anne-Marie's JustGiving page:Support Caudwell Children:
Matt Bagwell created an event called ‘Run the Country Ultra’, which saw him run more than 1m050km across England in September 2021 to raise funds and awareness for male suicide prevention and World Suicide Prevention Day. He ran 21 consecutive ultra marathons (an ultra marathon is a distance past 26 miles) across England and raised more than £50,000 for charity for CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably). Matt crossed 43 county borders in England before finishing in London on 5th October, and had an aim to help spread awareness of the sadly high male suicide rates and spread hope that it is always possible to ask for help.Listen to our chat with Matt, where he speaks about what got him through the intense physical challenge, why our mindsets are so important, and shares tips and inspiration for others to take on their own challenge. CHAPTER MARKERS:1.23: Matt introduces his challenge2.46: What inspired him to take it on4.38: The impact of his fundraising6.08: How (and why) he got others involved8.39: How he managed to get through it10.58: The importance of mindset13.37: The finish line16.24: Advice on fundraising challenges18.58: What does defiant optimism mean to you?20.25: Where find out moreFind out more about Run the Country Ultra: to Matt's JustGiving page: CALM:
At 54 years old, Marcia Roberts set a world record by cycling from Land's End to John O'Groats and back again, which is called the LEJOGLE.It took her 11 days, 13 hours and 13 minutes to do the incredible ride, and she was helped along the route with supports, friends and family. Marcia battled a lot through the ride, from Storm Francis (which came on day three) as well as saddle sores and a lack of sleep. She's raised more than £10,000 for her local mental health charity, Mind. Hear our chat with Marcia, where she talks about what got her through, the kindness of strangers, smashing her fundraising target, and her nuggets of inspiration for others who want to take on a challenge. CHAPTER MARKERS:0.55: Marcia discusses her challenge2.36: Aiming for a Guinness World Record5.45: The training plan7.20: How the ride went11.42: A focus on charity fundraising15.40: Getting to the finish line18.33: Advice for others21.29: Setting up a virtual challenge22.30: What does defiant optimism mean to you?23.19: Find out more about MarciaFollow Marcia on her blog: to her JustGiving : her charity of choice, Solent Mind:
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