Friend of FINDRA: Kate Mackay

Friend of FINDRA: Kate Mackay

Hey, can you tell everybody where are you based and what you do?

I live in Tynemouth in the North East of England. It’s a coastal village, east of Newcastle, which has a famous priory and a surfing beach called Longsands. I can be walking on the beach or swimming in the sea in less than 2 minutes. And I’m close enough to Northumberland to access remote countryside, hiking in the Cheviots.

I have a portfolio career working with the NHS as a business consultant plus I am an honorary visiting senior lecturer at the University of Bradford, a certified coach and an author and blogger. I don’t have much time for watching telly!

How long has the outdoors been a part of your life?

Since forever. As a child of the 1970s and 1980s we were pretty much left to run free in the summer, climbing trees, playing on the beach and making dens. My parents were not particularly outdoorsy although we camped every summer in France. But it was really in my late teens, and beyond, that I embraced the outdoors. Studying an environmental degree meant spending time in the field, including a trip to the Outer Hebrides which opened my eyes to the remote, beautiful landscapes that we have in the UK. I then dabbled in rock climbing whilst living in Sheffield but hated the feeling of exposure before discovering hillwalking in North Wales (love Snowdon, Tryfan and Moel Siabod). In my twenties and early thirties, I rode horses…..a lot, gaining some of my British Horse Society qualifications and tried side-saddle and western. After having my daughter in my mid-thirties, I found it easier to commit to snowboarding, going away once a year, rather than finding time once a week for horse riding. Snowboarding reminded me of my love for the mountains and in my late forties I started hill walking again and took up cycling after a nasty snowboarding injury. The outdoors has been a constant companion over the years.

What’s been your favourite trip or adventure?

That’s a tough one. I’ve been fortunate to have many trips and adventures to Namibia, Hawaii, Indonesia, India and Morocco amongst others. But one of my favourites is a recent adventure when I cycled 200+ miles over five days cycling from the North Sea to the Irish Sea via Scotland and remote parts of northern England. This route is Sustrans National Cycle Network 10, called the Reivers Route. All adventure should have excitement, uncertainty, challenge, self-discovery and fun. This had it all. I had never undertaken a cycle ride of this length. In fact, I’d never ridden back-to-back days and the longest I had ever cycled had been 36 miles. I wasn’t sure if I would be able to make it. The Reiver name came about during the 14th century when the border area between Scotland and England was constantly challenged. The battles between the Scots and the English allowed bandits and robbers, known as Reivers, to thrive in this lawless part of Britain.

Until the union of England and Scotland in 1603, thieving, arson, extortion and kidnapping were common. It was one of the last parts of Britain to be brought under the rule of law. Nowadays, we didn’t have to worry about thieves and bandits, but the section beyond Kielder Water is very remote, off-road and there were plenty of warnings on the map about potential serious consequences. We were lucky with the weather, had no injuries, mechanicals or punctures, although we did underestimate timings. I found that by day three my body knew what to do and I was astounded by how much I could push and how much I could achieve. I loved the freedom, simplicity and remoteness. We sang loudly, swore often and laughed lots. I have been cycling less than five years and now in my early 50s, I’m fitter both physically and mentally to push harder. Tackling this adventure has given me confidence to continue new cycling adventures.

How do you make find a balance between being active and life’s other responsibilities i.e. work and family?

This is a constant juggle. I don’t always get it right. I am very organised and set boundaries for work and with friends and family. I’m self-disciplined and whenever I am tempted to put my feet up, watch the telly and have a cuppa, I remind myself that getting out of the door is the hard part. I never, ever come back regretting being active, whether it’s a walk with the dog on the beach or outdoor bootcamp in the park. Some activities I do with friends; I often combine a girlie catch up with a cycle and a coffee (plus cake, of course!) And some I do with family such as a recent hike with ‘im indoors, in the Cheviots in north Northumberland, hiking upto the Border Ridge.

Is there anyone who inspired your love of the outdoors?

There’s been multiple people over the years including friends and family plus people I am connected to on social media and books I’ve read. Probably my earliest inspiration was Sir David Attenborough as I grew up watching his programmes, and these stirred my curiosity in the natural world. Latterly, it’s been my physio, Cheryl, who became a friend (I saw her so often during recovering after my snowboarding injury) who encouraged me to start cycling despite my initial reservations. She is bold, a bit bonkers and makes me laugh – a great combination in an adventure buddy. My biggest influence is my husband who encourages and supports me in taking timeout to do the things I love.

Do you find that being outside has a positive impact on your wellbeing and mental health?

I probably didn’t realise how much impact until the last few years with lockdowns. Outside allows me to switch off, electronically detox (I spend far too much time sitting at my laptop on endless teams meetings) and restore my batteries. I’ve never really been a gym bunny and although I weight train, in a gym, I prefer my outdoor bootcamp. There is something about being in the fresh air, listening to the birds, feeling the weather (good and bad) and feeling properly alive. I think there is something visceral about connecting to the natural world; it’s like pressing a reset button.

What is it about snowboarding specifically that you love?

It’s a playful activity; I get to spend time with my friends, out in the snow exploring the natural, mountainous environment, testing myself. It allows me to be in the present moment where none of my work or domestic life intrudes. I get to be me. I can push myself learning new skills, explore beyond the pistes venturing further away from the crowds or chillout cruising the easy runs. I get to see some of the most beautiful scenery out there, all whilst playing with my friends. Snowboarding is a direct channel back into childhood and the land of wonderment.

When did you discover FINDRA?

It was several years ago whilst browsing social media when I came across Jo Moseley (healthyhappy50 on Insta) and it was here that I first saw FINDRA. I’ve fully embraced the clothes which are stylish and practical plus light for travelling.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Don’t worry what other people think. I once heard that the overriding factor about whether someone attends your funeral is the weather. That’s right…the weather! It’s your life, and only you can live it, so ignore the gossips and the naysayers and do whatever makes your soul sing.

On writing this blog, what do you feel is the key motivational or inspirational message you would like to highlight to our followers that would inspire them to get outdoors more.

Getting out of your comfort zone is crucial to learning and growth. It’s where the magic happens and where you get to experience a whole host of feelings which ultimately lead to more confidence. Take small steps into the unknown and allow time to find your tribe. Get comfortable with feeling uncomfortable; feelings of anxiety and nerves are normal when trying something new. It’s also an indication that you are on the right path.

Favourite Book?

This book documents the lives of the first five women who climbed K2; it’s a fascinating read exploring the climbers as people, not just mountaineers. Only two of the women made it back.

I am a bit of an armchair mountaineer, and this book inspired me to go and visit the Himalayas. When researching, the FCO didn’t advise travelling to Pakistan and to reach K2 base camp, means flying to Islamabad. Therefore, the next best option, for me, was Everest, and I am travelling to Everest base camp via the Cho La pass in October this year.

Favourite Quote?

I first saw this quote in my 20s, and for some reason it resonated.

Favourite Song?

Moby - Porcelain

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