Citigroup employee becomes first Scottish female to run a marathon on all seven continents
We all need something to drive us forward and for me running provides direction," said Shona Thomson, who this month became the first Scottish and third British female to run a marathon on all seven continents, after competing in Vietnam.
Director and head of compensation for EMEA at Citigroup, Canary Wharf, Shona said the challenge of running a marathon was nothing compared to a tough day at the office.
She said: "People often ask me why I decided I wanted to run a marathon on every continent. It wasn't even a drunken bet. The simple answer is I need to be stimulated and challenged.
"Without something to aim for, I tend to get myself into a bit of a negative state. I don't think I'm different from anyone else and I love that euphoric runners' high.
"Many people have overcome significant hardships and gone on to accomplish amazing feats. One of the most humbling parts of my journey has been meeting some truly inspirational and remarkable characters."
Shona ran her first marathon in New York in November 2010 and was just looking to "tick the marathon box" but then missed the structure training brought to her life.
She said: "I began reading about the Comrades Marathon in South Africa. It's an ultra marathon - 90km between Durban and Pietermaritzburg.
"There was an article in Runners World written by someone who had run it. Within a few seconds of reading the opening paragraph, I knew I had to do it. In order to run Comrades, I needed to run a qualifying marathon.
"It was at this time that I stumbled across the Seven Continents Marathon Club. In order to be eligible to join, you have to complete the Antarctic Ice Marathon, the only marathon run on the interior of the Antarctic, as well as a marathon on all the other six continents.
"This resonated with me. It was at this point I decided I was going to do it and be the first Scottish woman to join the club. I suppose I'm not really one for moderation."
Shona trained with former Scotland rugby player David Arnot at Reach Fitness Clapham "within an inch of my life twice a week". She also started running twice a week into work with longer runs at the weekends.
She said: "All the races were very different so it's hard to say which was toughest as they all had their brutal moments.
"Comrades in June 2012 was hard, being an ultra marathon. The rules of the race are brutal. It is run gun-to-gun with a 12 hour cut off.
"Anyone who does not complete the 90km course in 12 hours is not allowed to finish, they are removed from the course, no medal and no recognition for the months of training.
"I had heard that you run the last 20km of this race with your heart and this was true. I passed bleeding and limping runners, others lying on the edge of the road, grown men crying, people vomiting and lengthy queues outside the physio tents. Despite the tiredness, the thought of stopping didn't even enter my mind.
"I knew that I still had more than enough strength in me to get me through to the end. I just kept going and gradually the time and distance passed. After more than 11 hours of running, I finished at the Kingsmead Sahara stadium tired but happy.
"I get all sorts of reactions from my colleagues. Some people look at me as if I've lost my faculties.
"Citi has an excellent culture and, although this was a personal mission, the ability to work from home some days and fit in pre-work training sessions was very helpful.
"You need determination, persistence, resilience, patience, a sense of humour, a short memory to forget the pain, a strong support network and a sense of perspective."
Shona is now looking to take on the North Pole marathon next April, to conquer the seven summits - the highest hill on each continent - and tick off all the Munros in Scotland.
She said: "Running is good preparation for life. The key to everything is not being afraid to fail."