It was the crack of dawn on Sunday morning, and I was a whisker away from dashing down to London to see Dame Ellen MacArthur sail up the Thames and talk onstage at Greenwich. I’m reading her autobiography at the moment, and am impressed, awed, and inspired by her guts and determination.

But I had a four-hour ergo to do, so I decided I couldn’t justify the journey. I had to settle for reading the next chapter of her book, about her voyage through the notorious Southern Ocean during the Vendee Globe.

I won’t attempt to summarise what she went through down there – but the miracle is not just that she survived, but that she wanted to. Most of us would have given up the will to live and curled up to die.

It’s unlikely I’ll face anything quite so challenging in mid-Atlantic. There WILL be challenges, yes – maybe psychological more than physical – but if in those moments I can recall Ellen MacArthur and draw inspiration from her example, it will make my troubles seem very minor in comparison.

You’re never too old to need a role model, and people like Ellen make us reconsider what we thought was humanly possible. She’s an inspiration.

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