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The Activist and Adventurer

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KIKO MATTHEWS, ENTREPRENEUR, ENVIRONMENTALIST & TRANS-ATLANTIC ROWER 

Ever wondered what you might be capable of, and how far you can push yourself?

Next January, Kiko is rowing from Grand Canary to Barbados alone and unsupported. She aims to make the crossing in 45 days, beating the current women’s record by 11 days. Kiko had never rowed before September 2016.

What makes this feat even more impressive is that Kiko is a survivor of a rare and life-threatening condition, Cushing’s Disease, that nearly killed her in 2009 and returned just three months ago, derailing all her training.

Her venture is a celebration of human resilience and the kind of affirmation - of determination, of independence, of gratitude - that makes the world feel a more positive place.

Why are you doing this?

"Well, my mum said to me that Prince Harry would make a great boyfriend and I agreed and thought this would be a good way to get his attention! 

"So that's one reason, but there are others. 

Kiko Matthews

"Mainly it was because I realised in September last year that I was incredibly happy and that life had become easy for me - not because of money, because I don't have much of that, and not because of the circumstances, but because of how I looked at them. And I wanted to be able to make other people feel the same, to make them realise that you can go from anything to anything.  So I thought I'd prove it by doing this."

Your story is one of remarkable mental resilience. Is there any advice or way of thinking that has particularly helped you?

"I think of resilience being made up of two things, which you can think of as two bags that you need to keep fully stocked. One bag is full of your resources, which come from your experiences; the other is your energy, which comes from your behaviour.

"Your experiences give you skills, knowledge, understanding, contacts and friends. Together with your physical tools (like your equipment), they are your resources.

"And then there's the energy bag, which you keep high with the obvious things like food, sleep, exercise, which give you measurable physical energy. 

"But there's also stuff like having a passion; doing things that you really love; doing things for other people; smiling; being kind; volunteering.  Those things give you energy.

"If your two bags are full then you're ready for anything, no matter what comes at you and no matter if it's outside your normal sphere of being.

"You need to think about the stuff that depletes you, too; the energy losers, like dishonesty and worry. Dishonesty includes not being true to yourself, even if it's just hanging out with people you don't really like because you think you ought to. And I've learnt not to try to control situations; it's always impossible, why bother? I can't control the facts that the waves are crashing or that my oar has just broken or whatever. You've just got to let stuff go, accept that it's done, it's over and then deal with what you've got. Otherwise it's just such a waste of energy."

What's the hardest thing about what you're doing at the moment?

"The hardest thing is asking people for money; I want them to love what it is and for them to want to be involved without having to ask. 

"But there's also the mental battle. Having the tumour again in August means that my cortisol and growth hormones are all out of sync. I often don't know why I'm tired, if it's because I'm hectically busy or because I'm really just not strong enough to do this now. 

Kiko Matthews

"So I'm having a constant conversation in my head about what's more true to myself: whether I really need to rest - and maybe postpone the trip, like most people would - or whether I'm just finding an excuse for being naughty and not training.

"I've also always been about the team, so I find doing this solo really difficult. That's actually part of the reason I've set up 100Together [Kiko's community of female supporters], because it makes me feel like I'm part of a team.  I may be the goalscorer, getting all the glory, but I won't get the ball in the first place without the team behind me." 

How did your morning start today?

"Today you got me on a good day. I got up at 5.15, and ate some uber-fattening, high protein homemade flapjack, with a nice big mug of coffee (I think it was actually the remains of yesterday's coffee, microwaved up).  And then I realised I was a bit early, so I got back into bed and had a bit of a snuggle. And then I got out again, grabbed two pieces of toast, and ran out the door, got in my van and went to the rowing club.  To be honest, I didn't do all that much... a bit on the rowing machine and some weights."

How could The Hot Breakfast community help you?

"If someone could put me in touch with Prince Harry that would be great! Then I wouldn't have to do all of this.

"But there are a bunch of other ways.  You can donate a mile (£33) or a day's food (£20), or you can contribute to the fund for the hospital. In my mind, all these supporters will be part of whatever world record I might achieve. I'm also looking for an event organiser, who'd be able to put in about five or six hours a week in the run up to my fundraisers in January. And support on social media is great, too."

Kiko is seeking to raise £100,000 for King’s College Hospital’s new Critical Care Unit, the place that saved her life in 2009.  She is one of a dazzling array of speakers discussing the "Power of Disruption" at the Women of the Future Summit taking place on Wednesday 15 November at the Hilton, Park Lane.

You can discover more of the dazzling array of people who make up our community on our Facebook and Instagram feeds.