Remarkable: self-powered journey for Mieke Stones

Some descriptionSome descriptionBack in January 2017, London marketer Mieke Stones challenged herself to travel ‘Powered by Me’ right through to December. Eleven months in to her adventure, her bike has become her constant companion. She’s clocked up over 7,500 km (that’s 4,660 miles), managed to make all her work commitments and even cycled to Bordeaux and back for a friend’s wedding. Mieke explains her remarkable achievement and the impact it’s had.

Tell us about yourself?

I’m Head of Marketing for London Sport, a Government funded organisation to get more Londoners into physical activity and sport. I completed my CIM Diploma in Marketing in 2009 and have continued my career in marketing since then, covering medical, fundraising and sport sectors.

Why did you embark on this adventure?

I was thinking about my next challenge event to sign up to after having completed a triathlon. After searching high and low I realised I didn’t want to sign up to something else, train for months, do the event and then search for the next thing. Instead, it got me thinking that I could just create something for myself. Something that fits into my current life, doesn’t cost me lots of money, but still challenged me mentally and physically. After a few brainstorming sessions, I came up with the concept – Powered by Me. To do what I could with my body and the things I already had (a bike), to live more sustainably, to blog about my experience and to really test myself – could I get through a whole year not using powered transport?

Could anyone working in London do this?

Some descriptionSome descriptionYes. Most people don’t realise how accessible London is by foot and bike. Of course, if you live far away from where you work then it becomes harder, but it’s not out of the question. I luckily live close to work, so my day to day travel is quite short, which means I have the energy when it comes to the longer journeys.

Looking back what are the highlights?

Doing the challenge, month on month, for several months, I wasn’t sure if I would make it to the end of the year. Once I got stronger and more confident, it was such a buzz knowing that the challenge was possible to achieve with just my body and mind. Successfully cycling to my best friend’s wedding in Bordeaux was one of the best experiences of my life. It was a 1,600km round trip over eight days, which tested me to my limits. Despite it being the toughest Powered by Me journey so far this year, it was also one of the most rewarding.

And the low points?

A week after I got back from my Bordeaux ride, I met friends for drinks on Embankment. When I left, my bike had gone. I couldn’t believe it, it was the only bike that had been with me on all my Powered by Me rides. I didn’t have another bike and was utterly gutted. That night I had a long walk home! The next day I borrowed a friend’s bike until I bought a new one. A few days later that was also stolen. Two bikes in two weeks and during the only year where I needed a bike so much made it tough to get through those weeks and sort it all out.  I just kept on saying to myself “it’s just a bike, it can be replaced”.

How do you motivate yourself in the tough times?

Some descriptionSome descriptionI think back to why I started the challenge, what it means to me and how far I’ve come since 1 January 2017. The weather can be tough at times, but I always think back to all the horrible tube or bus journeys I’ve had and remind myself that despite the rain or wind, I would still prefer to be on my bike!

Do you think you had an advantage being a marketer?

Yes, I really do. I’m a naturally inquisitive thinker, often asking lots of questions and thinking ‘what-if?’. I’m a visual and creative person and doing something like Powered by Me has allowed me to channel passions of mine into one mix to test what the outcome might be! Whilst I love my job and am lucky enough to have a broad range of marketing work, Powered by Me has allowed me to switch off from the professional marketing world a bit and focus on other parts of marketing that I don’t get to do as much of – blogging, social media, influencer marketing. It takes the pressure off too because you’ve got nothing to lose, you’re just doing it for fun!

How did you meet all your work commitments?

It took almost five months to mentally and physically adjust to the challenge, on top of working full time (and often being very busy at work). Early on, I was quite drained and struggled with the mixed winter and spring weather, so my productivity wasn’t quite as good as I thought it would be! But once I got to April/May time, it was as if things started to slot into place. My fitness sky-rocketed and I became really productive as a result. Regular days have been quite normal, but the times where I’ve had to travel outside London for work have been tough. In March, I cycled from London to Nottingham one week for a conference and the week after London to Loughborough. Both trips were exceptionally hard, with mixed weather and both broke me a bit. But after I returned I felt so much stronger and more confident having achieved those work trips Powered by Me, there was no stopping me after that! Work has been really supportive of my challenge, letting me work from home here and there. I’m also lucky enough that my work very rarely takes me out of London too.

What’s been the impact of your challenge on others?

Some descriptionSome descriptionI’ve had a few colleagues and friends who have got into cycling for the first time I told me that it was because of Powered by Me which is just the best feeling! I’ve also had friends and family in Sheffield, across London and Hong Kong who have taken up parts of the challenge, as well as a friend who challenged her students in Holland to try it out for a week with amazing results.

Has it changed your attitude to work/life challenges?

Yes. It’s made me realise that I really don’t have to quit my job to really fulfil my sports adventures! You can fit these things into your daily life and job, you just have to be prepared to make a few sacrifices and adjust to your new life – but the rewards are totally worth it.

What advice would you give to London marketers?

If you have a goal or aspiration in mind that you’ve always wanted to do (or been intrigued about) just spend time working on it. If you put the time and effort in, you can totally do it. Being a marketer is a wonderful career to be in, your skills sets are so broad that you can apply your learning and expertise to any other part of your life, to develop yourself personally and professionally. Who knows, in 10 years’ time marketer’s skills might become less sought after because the younger generations have types of marketing ingrained in their lives (digital, social media, coding). But don’t let that scare you, instead work on developing those skills to make you more capable in the future, but also more fulfilled in your career. And the one thing that marketers will always have over others is that we are disruptors, creatives and questioners (much to the annoyance of our colleagues) – something which you can’t necessarily learn!

How will you celebrate completing your challenge on 31 December 2017?

Some descriptionSome descriptionWell of course it’ll be New Year’s Eve, so celebrations are already sorted! I’ll be cycling home for a best friend’s wedding on 30 December to Kent, so will spend New Year’s with friends and family back home. I’ll have my bike with me, so I’ve not yet decided if I’ll cycle back on New Year’s Day or give myself the day off and get the train home! Right now, I’d like to think I’ll carry on elements of Powered by Me into 2018 but I’ll have to wait and see. I might just want a few months off. Other than that, I’ll most likely be celebrating with friends and family in early January, to celebrate the distances I’ve covered, the money raised for various charities and more.

What’s next?

Well 2018 is going to be even bigger and better for me since I am already beginning to plan Powered by Me part two! On 28 April, I’ll be running my first ever ultra-marathon in Wales, a 36-mile run along the coastal path, on beaches, through forests and something I’ve never done before. And a few months after that in June, I’ll be setting off on a 10-week bike ride around Europe thanks to work giving me a 3-month sabbatical!

If you’d like to donate to Mieke’s charities visit her Justgiving page

To read more about Mieke’s amazing year see her blog Powered by Me