When I came up with the crazy idea of joining an expedition to the North Pole I started searching for women who had achieved this challenge already. I quickly stumbled across Maria Conceicao online, and what jumped at me immediately is that she trained for her expedition in Dubai. Bingo! So I may not be completely insane, dreaming of making it to the ice while sitting in the Abu Dhabi desert…And this is how I started learning about Maria.
In my books, Maria is Superwoman. Google quickly pops up with information on how many Guiness World Records Maria was awarded, that she has been to the North Pole, climbed Everest, Kilimanjaro, completed the 777 Challenge (run 7 ultra marathons in 7 continents in 7 weeks), etc… And then you can read that she is doing all these crazy challenges for a special cause: to raise money for her Maria Cristina Foundation, which works to offer children from the slums of Dhaka (Bangladesh) a better future through education. Definitely Superwoman. Maria has a beautiful story to tell, of how her adoptive mother Cristina helped her when she was a child, and how she herself turned her life upside down to help children in Dhaka. But she can tell this story much better than I, so please take the time to watch her TEDx talk, posted below!
Besides the obvious humanitarian accomplishments of Maria and her foundation, I was hugely impressed by her sports accomplishments and was hoping that she would be able to share some insight into what it was like to train and to travel to the North Pole. Or, for her to tell me I am crazy and to forget about it. I emailed Maria, but didn’t really expect a reply. But she did reply, and her messages were full of kindness, encouragement and support. And a few weeks later, I found myself sitting next to her in Yas Mall, listening to her advice on how to train and what to expect.
“Set a date…Focus on your daily goals… Take your training one day at a time…”
I was in awe that this beautiful, petite Portuguese woman had done all of these amazing things. It was somewhat surreal sitting next to her. Maria was awesome. She took time to give advice, to listen, to chat, and her words left me motivated, energised and thoroughly excited.
Last, but not least, Maria left me with her training gear that she used to prepare for her expedition: two tires, a set of walking poles, rope and carbine hooks, so I could train for dragging a sledge like I would do during an expedition to the North Pole. She said she was gifted the gear when she started training, and she was paying it forward by passing it on to me. We took a photo, hugged and I promised to update her on my progress.
I’m sure Maria will be on to her next big challenge in the near future and I can’t wait to find out what’s up next for Superwoman! Thank you for being an inspiration Maria!
To follow Maria Conceicao and to learn more about the Maria Cristina Foundation, and how you can support their good cause, please check out their webpage and Facebook pages. You can also follow Maria on Instagram @mcf777.