She is 22 years old. She was the first European woman to win the extreme race called Tour Divide which measures 2745 miles. With her boyfriend, she finished a long-distance skiing race in Finland which nobody has ever managed to finish before. Her name is Markéta Peggy Marvanová. She rides away from bears and thunderstorms and writes books about it. She proves that anything is possible. We spoke about fear, the meaning of life, pain, and relationships.
Peggy, are you afraid during the extreme races?
Yes, I am. When you reach a forest after a whole day of cycling and you know that there are no people 30 miles in front and behind you, you begin to fear. But you cannot give up in the wilderness because nobody will save you there. You need to go on. Eventually, you manage to fall asleep, you wake up to a new day and you keep on going. In the evening, you arrive at a new place and it goes all over again.
You cannot get used to it, right?
Well, I think that the fear is always there and it probably grows with age. On the other side, I noticed that after the fourth day of race everything gets better. The body gets used to sleeping 5-6 hours, riding 120 miles per day and sleeping in the open air. One starts to push the limits. It is natural to be afraid. But you should not let the fear overcome you and be visible.
Have you ever feared death?
I faced that fear during the first Tour Divide race which I rode alone. I do not believe in God but I prayed to him those days. I then spoke about it with a friend of mine. He told me that if he did not believe in the afterlife his life would not have any meaning. I believe in destiny. If a car is to hit me, then it shall happen. One should not let fear numb senses because then one behaves badly.
Is it true that many hands make light work?
Absolutely. There were many moments in my first race which I would never like to experience again. Going with my boyfriend was obviously more enjoyable. But solitude lets you go through all the feelings and impressions more intensely.
Have you come to any major realization during your travels?
I found out that the mission of my life is to help other people. That is why I organized a charity collection for one small girl and we also want to start doing lectures in children’s homes with my boyfriend and our friend Richard Štěpánek. The quietness and solitude let you think about the world and yourself. The body is tired after 120 miles but the mind is relaxed. I would like to live such a simple and slow life in the civilization.
Do you philosophize a lot when traveling?
Not entirely. A certain part of the day I only think about how many miles is still missing to the end of the race. Another part of the day my mind is dominated by fear which does not give space to other thoughts. There are times when the body runs in an automatic mode and then you start thinking about your future and mission in life. It rarely happens that you do not think about anything and in those moments, you are completely free.
What about pain?
It is true that races hurt. In the first Tour Divide my knees hurt me during the whole journey except the last day. It often happens that when you get on the bike after a small break you feel your whole body going into pieces. But you can bear it. You just need to bite the bullet and ride. I did not have any pain this year thanks to my good condition and well-adjusted bike.
What do you recommend doing when something is hurting?
Either relax or slow down. In extreme races, you do not stop but if you are riding for fun it is not worth pushing too far. If you ride slow for a long period of time, the body is not so tired and manages to go far. Try sometimes to start early in the morning and finish in the evening. You will be surprised to see the distance.
How do your family and friends see your extreme racing?
They are afraid but proud. They are used to it. I did not tell them that I would go travelling across America. Regarding my friends they give me support and admire me. I do not know what other people think. I mostly spend time with my close ones and do not keep other contacts. In general, it is important to hold on to your goal and go for it.
What about your boyfriend? You must have been so happy to have met someone passionate into the same thing.
I am incredibly happy. I often ask myself how it is possible that we even met. During the 1000 Miles race in the Czech and Slovak Republic I tried to overtake him but I did not manage it for six days. We eventually rode together and got to know each other. Our characters are different. He is silent and I am chatty. If there was not the race we would have probably never met and become a couple.
It is often said that men are afraid of brave and strong women. What do you think about it?
It is strange that many men cannot overcome the thought that a woman could be stronger than them. In my opinion, men are better at going fast but women are better at going for a longer time. In the end, women can be better even if it does not seem so. My boyfriend Adam does not care about this. He is happy that we are equal and that we can take part in competitions and be together. He is not egotistical.
How do you give support to each other during times of hardship?
It is natural to want to fight in crisis situations because the other person is physically and mentally exhausted. But we both know very well that an argument would not lead anywhere and so we try to motivate each other in those moments. If any one of us were bullheaded and walked away during a snow storm in a Lapland bush we could both die.
Do you manage to keep this mental balance when you come to civilization or do you switch to Prague mode?
I switch. It is strange because after 27 days of melting water from snow in Lapland which takes up to three hours you are grateful to drink tap water. After 14 days, however, you take it for granted. That is why I need to return.
What is your next mission? Where can you evolve when you have won such significant races?
There are no boundaries. You can always realize more things, go faster or go the same speed but feel better. Even if you cannot evolve in biking, you can always be better at other areas of life. Next season, for example, I want to travel across Europe and hike in the mountains. I want to be in nature and not have to fly to a different continent for it.
Thank you very much for this inspiring and enriching interview, Peggy. Good luck with everything.
Copyright: Markéta Peggy Marvanová