Skiing for scholarships - Dr Paula Gould heads to the Swiss Alps for a challenge like no other

Despite February's unseasonably warm weather, Dr Paula Gould, from Development, Alumni Relations & Events (DARE), has been preparing for freezing cold temperatures as she heads to the Swiss Alps for a challenge like no other.

On Sunday 10 March 2019, Dr Gould will take part in the world-famous Engadin ski marathon, with past participants in the race including Pippa Middleton and Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. But skiing alongside famous faces isn’t why Paula chose to partake in the 42km cross-country ski marathon; she is helping raise money for student scholarships here at the University.

Dr Paula Gould skiing

Dr Paula Gould in Peak District

The hills of Sheffield could not prepare Dr Gould for this unusual endurance event, she said: “Training for cross-country skiing here in the Peak District has been really hard, particularly when February often felt more like summer. I've been doing a mixture of pilates and core strength work to help with balance, some swimming to help arm and shoulder strength, general cardio, such as cycling and running, and then long walks at weekends to help with endurance.

"I had a week training earlier this year in the Italian Dolomites with a small group of reasonably experienced cross-country skiiers, many of whom had done ski marathons before. They gave me a lot of great tips for surviving ski marathons and Engadin in particular. It was also an excellent opportunity to do some longer days skiing and get an idea of what doing marathon distance might feel like.

"I'm a relative newcomer to cross-country skiing so by no means a pro. I'll be doing what is known as skating style. You see this in the Winter Olympics in biathlon. I'll be doing something similar but a lot slower (and without the gun).”

Completing the marathon isn't the only challenge. Paula will also be raising money for students who need an extra helping hand to cover the cost of coming to study at the University. She says she is motivated to do this having seen how such scholarships can reduce students' financial worries.

Last year we awarded scholarships of £3,600 to 200 undergraduates starting courses in September 2018. These scholarships, which all go to students from low-income backgrounds, are all funded through donations. By doing the marathon, Paula is hoping to raise awareness of the scholarships and make higher education a possibility for all, regardless of background.

Paula explains: “I set a fairly ambitious target - £1,200, enough to support an undergraduate Experience Sheffield scholar for one year - and although the JustGiving site has only been live for a few weeks we're well over halfway there already. Friends, family and colleagues have really got behind the cause and I've had some lovely good luck messages. This is what's going to keep me going when I'm tired, my arms are aching, my knees are sore, the snow tracks have been obliterated by 10,000 other skiers and the next feed station is still several kilometres away. Whatever happens on the day, I'm determined to do everything I possibly can to finish in one piece and inside the six-hour cut-off time.”

To keep track of Paula's final pre-race preparations, to see what happens on race day itself, and to donate, visit Paula's JustGiving page