Inspirational Woman Of Day: The inspirational teacher who braved ice and fire as she tackled a different physical challenge every month to honour her father’s memory

Abseiling down a power station, jumping over fire and swimming through ice.

There are few of us who can say we have accomplished any of these feats, but not only has 24-year-old Clarissa Goodwin managed every one, and many more, she did it all in a year, and while juggling intensive teacher training.

Clarissa, from South-West London, embarked on the most extreme 12 months of her life in June 2011.

She tackled a different physical challenge every month to raise money for charity in memory of her late father Anthony ‘Norvon’ Goodwin, a managing director of a steel foundry who passed away aged 54 after a stroke in 2007, leaving his family devastated.

‘I was always a bit of a daddy’s girl,’ says Clarissa.

‘It was Dad who turned my brother and me into sports nuts. He said there was no better way to learn discipline or make friends.

‘He inspired me to become a heptathlete in my teens. I later gave it up for hockey and netball, but again, it was Dad egging me on from the sidelines.’

It paid off, as Clarissa plays for the England senior women’s hockey squad. ‘I wanted to do something in his memory that would’ve made him proud. I knew Dad would have approved and hopefully would have thought I was mad, in a good way, for trying any of the challenges, let alone 12 in a year!’

So how hellish was it? After all, she cycled 100k through London; ran 13 miles in San Francisco; stood on a giant surf board (called a paddleboard) and paddled across a reservoir; ran, cycled and abseiled in the London Urban Rat Race Adventure.

She ran through fire, climbed 12ft walls, waded through ice and swam across freezing lakes in The London Spartan Sprint; abseiled 100ft down Battersea power station; ran around Richmond Park dressed as Santa Claus; sprinted five miles around the Olympic Park; swam 200 lengths of a pool in a swimathon; marched, cycled, ran and orienteered her way around the capital in a Soldier Challenge; spent eight hours competing in a duathlon and lastly climbed the three highest peaks in Yorkshire in under 12 hours.

Clarissa found herself getting up at 5am, planning her lessons for the day, then doing an intense 20-minute workout before arriving at school at 7am. After school she would swim for two hours or run 10k.

'It was unbelievable': Clarissa (middle) takes part in the National Lottery Olympic Park Run‘It was unbelievable’: Clarissa (middle) takes part in the National Lottery Olympic Park Run

Clarissa says: ‘I went through a tough patch when I lost all perspective. I neglected to see friends and family. I was permanently tired, my teaching suffered and I wasn’t eating properly because I didn’t have time. It stopped being fun.’

Clarissa lives with her boyfriend, Robert Shilling, 26, who also plays hockey professionally. ‘Poor Robert had to put up with a lot. We hardly saw each other and it put a huge strain on things.’

There were other hurdles, too. In February, Clarissa underwent painful wrist surgery to correct an old injury. ‘I had to wear a sling for a month and postpone two challenges. It was gutting. I felt I was letting people down. I changed a few challenges to ones which wouldn’t affect my wrist and I put all my efforts into getting better.’

Luckily there were moments that made up for the pain. In March, Clarissa took part in the National Lottery Olympic Park Run. Despite having food poisoning, she finished the five-mile run in 26 minutes.

‘It was unbelievable. They played Chariots Of Fire and Team GB Olympic athletes cheered us on along the final 100 meters.’

Last October she took part in The London Spartan Sprint. Competitors crawled beneath barbed wire, waded through ice, lifted logs and threw spears.

Inspirational women of the year

Clarissa says: ‘I’ve never felt pain like it. It left me walking like a penguin for days. But it was also hilarious. It gave me the most immense sense of achievement.’

It’s Clarissa’s attitude that is most impressive. She is a tireless campaigner for women’s sport.

She says: ‘I’ve been inundated with letters from people saying they didn’t realise women could get involved with so many fabulous sports. I’ve got a friend that’s taken up paddle-boarding and another who has decided to run half marathons. That was the aim — to inspire in others the love of sport which Dad inspired in me.’

To date, Clarissa has raised more than £11,000 for The Guide Dogs For The Blind Association, a charity close to her father’s heart after an industrial accident left him blind in one eye aged 31.

And she’s far from finished. ‘I’d like to do something else next year, maybe run a marathon across the desert. I’ll keep it to the one challenge though,’ she laughs.

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