Jan Meek, leader of the Polar Maidens will spend Christmas Day at the South Pole. Two year’s preparation have taken 73-year-old Jan to the peak of her potential fitness. Now it will need huge, mental stamina but have no doubt, if anyone can do it Jan can.
Just before we went to press Polar Walker Jan Meek turned up for an event at the Bingham Hotel in Richmond wearing an electric blue, semi transparent outfit adorned with a family heirloom, a turquoise and diamond necklace. She looked stunning and captivated everyone she met.
I am not surprised. She is fearless, funny and forthright. Jan packs more into each day than most of us do in a week – she is an expert at getting things done.
Indeed, Jan will celebrate her 74th birthday at the South Pole, the culmination of the Polar Maidens scientific expedition which she set up two years ago. I am not sure whether she is planning to play cricket – that might be a bit repetitive for Jan. She did that at the North Pole. That was after rowing across the Atlantic with her son a couple of years earlier.
For our cover shoot Jan changed into a variety of outfits but the one we thought suited her best was the Union Jack, which we draped around her Boadicea-style. The former Mayor of Chipping Norton is nothing if not patriotic.
What I find so fascinating about Jan is her unflinching determination. Weeks earlier I spotted her in the front row of Richmond Rugby Business Club’s monthly event – which RiverTribe now produces – she was listening with such focus to Paralympian Gold Medallist, Rachel Morris, and her inspirational story. The truth is that Jan likes to speak – all over the world – but she also likes to listen. That is the critical skill which drives her ambition and gives her the will to succeed.
Next month Jan will lead an all-woman expedition to the South Pole. Jan has put together a team of ‘ordinary women’ aged from 23 to 73.
“We’re not soldiers, professional athletes or celebrities. We have come together to do something less ordinary and demonstrate how far women have come since Scott’s 1912 expedition when the idea of women contemplating the trek would have been unheard of.”
Jan and her team are now part of the Living Bridge initiative which promotes closer trade, investment and cultural links between the UK and India. Two of the Polar Maidens are from the sub-continent.
Since Jan gained her first Guinness World Record in 1997 (she has four) she has spoken to 700 schools and voluntary organisations all over the world. The Polar Maidens are raising funds for Jan’s Inspirationelle Foundation which aims to support women of all ages doing extraordinary projects.
With a 50-year age range across the team, monitoring the physical and mental impact of 12-hour days skiing and trekking in extreme conditions for up to 20 days before reaching the South Pole will yield fascinating results. How will the breast cancer survivor cope? Will Jan have hauled enough tyres on chains down a South coast beach to build the necessary endurance for a woman in the middle of her eighth decade? All valuable research.
“I don’t think age is a barrier to many things. With the right mind-set it is possible to go on achieving throughout your life. I am fortunate enough to have had a really inspirational mother. Our family motto is “Why Not?”
You can become a Polar Angel by sponsoring the Polar Maidens. Visit www.gofundme.com/polarmaidens
Or call Jan’s marketing team on 01323 769130