Helen Skelton joined the Blue Peter team in 2008 and has since gone on to complete some amazing physical challenges. She has kindly found time in her really busy schedule to answer some of our questions.
Image credit: Ruth Crafer
In 2009 she became only the second woman ever to complete the Nambia Ultra Marathon – a gruelling 78 mile course through the Namibian desert, which she finished in under 24 hours. Two weeks later she was back in her running shoes, taking part in the London Marathon for Leonard Cheshire Disability.
In early 2010 she decided to push herself further by kayaking 2,010 miles down the Amazon in support of Sport Relief. Along the way she broke two Guiness World Records; the longest solo journey by kayak, and the longest kayak by a woman in 24 hours.
Never one to rest on her laurels, for her Comic Relief challenge in 2011 Helen drew inspiration from "Man on Wire" and decided to train in the art of highwire walking. A BBC1 special, Girl On Wire, followed her progress from her first tentative steps three feet off the ground, to her spectacular 150 meter long, 66 meter high walk between the towers of Battersea Power Station.
All of these remarkable achievements however were utterly eclipsed by her latest challenge for Sport Relief. In January 2012 Helen travelled 500 miles across Antarctica to the South Pole by ski, kite and bike, enduring temperatures of -48 degrees. However even that wasn’t enough to stop her breaking another world record by becoming the fastest person to travel 100km by kite ski. Her entire journey from day one of training through to completing her challenge was broadcast in a nine part series of Blue Peter Specials on BBC1.
Q: Out of the physical challenges that you have done was there ever a moment where you just found it too hard/scary and thought you couldn't complete it?
A: During the 80 mile run I did in Namibia after 26 miles I was on the floor in tears, I was so sunburned I had nothing left in my legs and I was starting to hallucinate through dehydration. It was awful but I just didn't want to come home and say to people I had failed. The thought of that made me get up and keep going.
Q: Do you find you are ever written off because of your looks (a young, attractive woman is not usually associated with extreme physical achievements)? And how do you combat this?
A: Constantly, the other runners at the ultra marathon said to me "you won't finish so just enjoy it." As long as you know who you are and what you have to offer, the things other people say shouldnt affect you
Q: Do you have any tips for how to complete endurance running races? I am trying really hard to train (only for a half marathon!) and am not sure I'd ever be able to run a full marathon although I'd like to!
A: Don't over think it. If you can run 5 miles, break a run down into 5 miles at a time, take it bit by bit.
Q: Is there a challenge that you'd really like to do in future?
A: I want to do a team event, and I would like to do an ironman.
Q: How important do you find things like sports massage/post training care? Do they really make a difference to recovery/performance?
A: I don't take sports massage and diet seriously enough. I find if I eat and drink a lot I can get through endurance events. My attitude towards food has changed since I started running. I have cake and biscuits guilt free. They are food!
Q: What sport or exercise do you do for fun?
A: I play tennis and squash against my fiancé, I love going out on my bike but the thing I do everyday is go out with my dog.
Q: The WI motto is 'inspiring women' - who do you find inspiring?
A: Chrissie Wellington is my hero. I was hugely inspired by Ellen Mcarthur as a teenager.
Q: How do you decide what challenges to complete? Do you look for records to break (e.g. the longest solo kayak down the Amazon), activities you'd like to try or are you presented with options?
A: It is always about doing something new for the audience. I don't like setting records, you get too much criticism for the elite pele who do that particular sport but my boss loves them from a tv point of view. I set them I don't break them.
Q: How have you found the label 'role model' that must come with being a Blue Peter presenter? Is it more of a burden than you expected before you took the job?
A: It's an honour to be called a role model but most of the time I just talk out loud so I think there are people who deserve it more than me.
Q: And lastly, what's your favourite cake?
A: Lemon drizzle