Welcome to the Virgin STRIVE Challenge 2016!!

The Virgin Strive Challenge is something I am incredibly proud of – it was something I set up with my cousin Noah in 2014, as a vehicle to drive change for young people in the UK, and after an incredibly successful first event in 2014, we can’t wait to get started on this one. The idea was born out of some of my most testing experiences, all of which I have grown from, and so Noah and I wanted to created something that would allow as many people as possible to benefit from taking part in awe-inspiring challenges.

Through a series of ultra-endurance challenges, we want to bring together groups of extraordinary people to test themselves and raise funds and awareness for our charity Big Change.

Everyone who takes part in the challenge is tasked with pushing themselves to be their best while fundraising for change – this money is then invested into amazing projects that are working to improve the lives of young people all over the UK. This year we’re planning to push ourselves even further and create even greater impact. Having said that, one of the key things we set out to do from the very outset was to create challenges that were accessible to people of all abilities and experience levels.

A core team of 25 of us are tackling the gruelling thirty day adventure from the base of the Matterhorn in Switzerland to Mount Etna in Sicily… entirely under human power. We would love for anyone who is committed to driving positive change for young people and wants to really push themselves, to join us on the different legs of the challenge…

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Here’s a breakdown of the challenge stages:

Hike: The first stage picks up from where we left off last year, the base of the Matterhorn. From there we will hike for five days into Northern Italy, over high cols and low Alpine Valleys. We will be staying in mountain refuges along the way. Stunning and remote scenery guaranteed!

(1st – 8th September)

Cycle 1: We will be riding 150km a day through the Tuscan countryside, covering some of the most classic cycling roads in Italy. The route follows a long descent, winding through traditional Italian towns and countryside towards the famous coastline of Liguria. The lack of steep climbs means this is the leg for the less experienced cyclist.

(8th – 14th September)

Cycle 2: This leg is branded “Undiscovered Italy” as we travel through some lesser known but equally beautiful countryside. With a classic Giro climbs in the mix and a night on the Amalfi coast at the end, this is cycling at its very best. This leg is for the intermediate cyclist.

(14th – 20th September)

Cycle 3: Epic coastal roads, mountain top villages and giant olive groves sees Strivers take in the best of Southern Italy. The route skips between mountains and sea and with 10,500m of climbing over 5 days – this is the leg for the more experienced cyclist.

(20th – 26th September)

TriathlonThe final stage is new to STRIVE – the Triathlon. Over 3 days we will be swimming to Sicily from Italy (3km), mountain biking 110km to the foothills of Etna and then running a half marathon to the summit of the volcano. Followed by an almighty closing party!

(26th – 30th September)

For more information visit The Route page.

The next few months are going to push me and all the strivers to our limits – we have an extensive training programme underway in preparation for the challenge. That said, no matter how fit and healthy we are, nothing will completely prepare us for the mental strength we’re going to need to push forward, when we will inevitably reach our breaking points somewhere along the way.

This is when having a growth mindset is going to be invaluable. I’m lucky to come from a family who thrive when outside of their comfort zone, which is kind of what having a growth mindset is all about.

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It is something myself and the team at Big Change have been thinking about a lot in the last year – and with the money raised by the challenge Big Change will be supporting projects that are shifting the culture around young people to allow them to develop a growth mindset. Breaking down exactly what determines whether or not a person has a growth mindset will be key in pushing forward when we think we’ve reached our limits.

My belief is, you are never incapable of chasing your dreams or pushing yourself one step further than you imagined – you just need the right mindset to get there. 

This is something that everyone who chooses to take part in Strive is committing to – having a growth mindset will allow us to push harder than we thought possible, reach heights we never thought reachable and unite as a force for good.

It’s an exciting time for all of us at Big Change and I’m looking forward to sharing more about our training, motivation and fundraising over the coming months.

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For now though, make sure you visit the Strive Challenge website where you can see what we got up to on the last challenge and you can donate to support the amazing projects we’re working with this year.

Remember, growth happens when you step out of your comfort zone to achieve bold ambitions. Magic happens when you do it together.

I look forward to having you join us on our journey of creating long term change, whilst challenging ourselves and having fun doing it.

Sam ☺