“Small ulcers opened up on my inner thigh, these were manageable and I covered them in small dressings as they appeared. Two weeks from the end I had a minor fall on some sastrugi [ridge of hard snow], but in trying to catch my fall I heard and felt my leg essentially split open – all the small and larger ulcers broke open into one large one covering the majority of my inner thigh.”
“Jenny decided … she would instead sign herself up to the infamous Marathon des Sables”
Now, this may seem like a cruel and grisly injury to sustain while on your local countryside walk, but consider that explorer Jenny Davis sustained this injury – the relatively unknown ’polar thigh’ injury – two weeks into a gruelling attempt to become the fastest woman to reach the South Pole. Totally alone.
You’re probably wondering how someone could find themselves 250 miles from the South Pole, with a debilitating leg injury, so let’s wind the clocks back a few years. As like many modern-day adventurers, Davis found herself searching for a break from the typical nine to five normality – whilst working as a lawyer in London – and, like many, there was a catalyst for this to change.
In Jenny’s case, it was sadly the discovery of a dangerous growth in her abdomen and imminent admittance to hospital – where she endured a course of tumour shrinking drugs, along with major surgery. While bed bound, following her surgery, Jenny decided that rather than flicking through hospital TV while working her way through yet another pack of grapes she would instead sign herself up to the infamous Marathon des Sables (2015) and start planning the training required for the race.
Known as ’The Toughest Footrace on Earth’, the 250 kilometre long Marathon des Sables is the pinnacle of all ultra marathons; crossing its way through one of the most inhospitable environments in the world, the Sahara. Juggling a demanding job and training for this race is difficult enough for those who aren’t recovering from a life-changing medical condition. Jenny, however, took all of this within her stride (frequently waking up at 03.00 to train), and finished as the 35th female.
“Jenny had soon caught the bug and thrived in environments where she was able to test her body to the limits”
A few ultramarathons later, Jenny had soon caught the bug and thrived in environments where she was able to test her body to the limits. It wasn’t until February 2016 however, where Jenny took part in an Arctic challenge, that she really made her mark. The Ice Ultra, as the name alludes to, is a 230 km journey across snowfields, mountains and frozen lakes in northern Sweden. Despite temperatures as low as -37 degrees, and falling through ice into a freezing lake below, Jenny stepped onto the podium – finishing as the third fastest female.
Mount Vinson was next on the cards, arranged as Jenny’s honeymoon with her husband, Matt. The highest mountain in Antarctica was not only planned as their couple’s ‘romantic’ getaway break, it would also double up as an altitude acclimatisation trip before setting out to become the fastest woman to reach the South Pole solo. Jenny found time to chat with me about her attempts to reach the Pole, and the challenges she inevitably came up against while attempting to complete this goal.