MISSION impossible? There’s no such thing in the world of HR guru Pauline Hogg.
Taking on challenges is as normal to her as breathing but leaving her role as HR director at global giant Unilever to take on a new direction as well as tackle the 2015 Ironman UK Triathlon in Bolton took bundles of courage and dedication not to mention a whole heap of blood, sweat and tears.
‘I promptly burst into tears at the finish,’ she admitted. ”I’m pleased with my efforts but more importantly the journey to get there. I’ve learned a lot about myself, what I am capable of and also how the mind can be your making or breaking. There are so many analogies to cross over into work and I will certainly refer to them as I take on my new challenges.
‘My overriding one being that if you think positively about what you can do and believe you can do it, then anything really is possible. Stamp out the negativity and the self doubt and, it’s a cliché, but the world really is your oyster.’
Having already conquered one mountain in her life, Kilimanjaro, it was inevitable she should consider climbing another. It came in the form of the Ironman, one of a series of long-distance triathlon races organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC) consisting of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile (180.25km) bike ride followed by a 26.2-mile marathon run. Raced in that order. Without a break.
I defy any mere mortal to contemplate such a feat without sensing a shiver run down their spine. You have to be pretty crazy, right?
It will come as no surprise to learn it is considered to be one of the most difficult and gruelling one-day sporting events in the world. Anybody who has run the London Marathon would understand just why. Hauling your body 26 miles is one thing. Doing it after a strength-sapping swim and when your thighs are screaming out in pain from a debilitating eight-hour stint in the saddle is another altogether.
Most Ironman events have a strict time limit of 17 hours to complete the race – Pauline excelling with an overall time of 15hrs 13mins 55secs to finish 1,403rd from 2,157 starters. In her division she tabled 36th place while, staggeringly, she crossed the line as the 177th woman.
Her times were 1hr 22min 9secs for the swim, 8hrs 53secs for the bike ride and 5hrs 25mins 13secs for the run – heroic for someone who has never contemplated such a seismic test of stamina and resolve before. She even followed it up just two weeks later by taking on the 100-mile Ride London Cycle event – probably just as a gentle warm down!
Limitless aspiration has always gone a long way to making Pauline tick. She is a self-confessed challenge junkie whose enthusiasm for meeting obstacles head on, and jumping them, knows no bounds.
So why take on such a task? What was her biggest challenge? And has she got any advice for someone contemplating stepping out of their own comfort zone to take on a a similar venture?
‘Twelve months ago I was in the camp of thinking that Ironman was a step too far, for those crazy super athletes,’ she said. ‘In a moment of stupidity, naivety, mid-life crisis or call it what you will, I entered, then worried about how not to fail….
‘After eight months of inconsistent but tough training I found the swim and the bike quite an enjoyable experience but that’s because I like those parts….
‘The run… Well, my mind did not prepare me for that. Whereas I set out in the morning with a feeling of calm and fair degree of positivity, I started the run telling myself I hated running and I was not built for it and so I was just going to have to get through it.
‘I was not in the right space and every time I stopped to walk I was justifying my own perception of what I was capable of. I think I earned my Ironman medal for that part, but I think I could have done better there and it probably wasn’t the physical side of things.
‘My training had not been running- biased however (because I avoid the bits I like the least) and so I got what I deserved. Slightly disappointed with 5hrs 25mins for the marathon (especially having done a lone one last year in 4:21) but I finished uninjured and with no blisters or missing toenails and all that gruesome stuff you hear about “real runners”.
‘I think I could have shaved off 15 minutes to get a final time with a 14 at the front but despite my frequent walking I ran the last four miles to the finish where running down the red carpet was the most electrifying experience I’ve ever had – to the rapturous applause of the spectators who certainly were giving the “normal people” attempting such a challenge a bigger cheer.’
Pauline uses Naked Leader’s mantra to ‘Just Do It’ and was a much-valued speaker at Naked Leader’s 2014 Conference last October in London.
Rosalind Howard, Naked Leader’s Managing Director, adds: ‘Pauline is both awe-inspiring and impressive, an amazing person with huge capabilities, while she is humble too.
“To hear that she has completed this challenge is amazing, although will be no surprise to anyone privileged to know her.’