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‘We have a 'why not' attitude as opposed to a 'why' attitude’

In 2022, University of Glasgow students Nia and Miriam will be attempting two world records as they row 3,000 miles across the Atlantic Ocean to raise money for Wellbeing of Women. Here they explain what possessed them to embark on the challenge

Tell me a little bit about yourself.

Nia: I’m 20 and originally from Monmouth in South Wales, studying physics at the University of Glasgow. I've been rowing for six years now. Miriam and I have known each other for a couple of because we work together. She's always been absolutely mental.

Miriam: I'm 20 too, originally from East Yorkshire, and then came to university to study physics with astrophysics. And then met Nia. I started rowing University in my first year as a complete beginner and never really been in a boat before. I always wanted to find a friend that goes along with all my... some people call them bad ideas, but I think they're excellent ideas. The jury's out on that!

Tell me about your challenge, then. Where did the idea come from?

Miriam: It was a Sunday morning, and we were in a foul mood after training, and someone brought up the Atlantic Challenge. One girl said it was the worst idea they’d ever heard of, but Nia was like ‘that sounds quite fun’. I messaged her that night thinking ‘I’m serious, is she?’ And she came aboard.

Nia: I thought it sounded so cool, and it’d be really nice to do something that has a positive impact too. I was a bit scared, because I’m only human, but the more we talked about it the more we wanted to do it.

What’s been the toughest bit so far?

Miriam: Definitely trying to raise the cost to do the challenge! When we started, we had an action plan, but when the pandemic hit it was two steps backwards. So at the moment we're just firing off emails, trying to talk to as many people as we can, learning how to pitch and get corporate sponsorship – it’s a big task for two students.

Nia: What’s difficult is not getting overwhelmed. We make sure that we keep believing that we can do it and make sure that we take ourselves seriously.

Are you studying at the same time?

Miriam: I'm in third year and Nia's in fourth year. So I guess we'll both coincide graduating with... a celebration row across the Atlantic!

There are some weeks when you think, 'why have I taken on so much'? And you've just got to remember the 'why's of the challenge, that I'm raising awareness and support and then the fact it's an incredible challenge. I think we remember that and then we're like, right, okay, reset, go again.

Why women’s health?

Miriam: I lost my gran to ovarian cancer, so I know that there isn't really a lot that can be done once you're diagnosed, and that often people are diagnosed in later stages.

The charity really appealed to us because its medical research is so pioneering, including looking into finding ways of detecting ovarian cancer earlier and how to treat it once it becomes chemo-resistant. Women's health is so underfunded and under researched - any sort of little difference that we could see would just be incredible.

What would you say to someone thinking of embarking on a big challenge too?

Miriam: They should do it! Absolutely do it. The phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ is useful here – it’s almost about not knowing what you've gotten yourself into and jumping headfirst into it.

Nia: Also keep an eye on the prize – know what you want to achieve and know why. What’s really, really kept both of us going is thinking about how it's going to feel when we get there and when we’re out in the boat. We have a 'why not' attitude as opposed to a 'why' attitude.

The worst that can happen is it won't go that well, but it's worth trying – if it’s possible for someone to do it then it’s possible for us to do it.

Find out more about Miriam and Nia’s challenge here, and donate on their JustGiving page here.