Four years ago, Jade Skillen shelved a promising football career to give her personal training business the best chance of succeeding, writes Liam Apicella.
Red Lodge-based Skillen had spent much of her time as youngster on the books of Ipswich Town, before turning out for Tottenham Hotspur Ladies and West Ham United Ladies.
Her talent for the game was also noticed across the Atlantic, where she was awarded a scholarship to play football in Alabama.
But, as her company started to grow, something had to give and the former Ditton Lodge Primary School pupil made the tough decision to hang up her boots.
However, the competitive fire within continued to burn brightly, leading the 26-year-old down the route of obstacle racing — a gruelling event that tests every aspect of physical and mental fitness.
But Skillen has taken to the sport well, so much so that she is just one of three British athletes to have been selected for the first ever Spartan World Team Championships.
“I am so excited and it has shown the decision to quit football has paid off,” said Skillen.
“I have found a real love for the sport and it helps that I can train alongside running my business.
“I was having to train three or four times a week for football, but this is all on my terms.
“It is an up and coming sport which I think will be massive in a couple of years.
“It is growing all the time. To be part of the first World Champs is going to be a really special moment.”
Skillen — along with team-mates Scott Barker and Ross MacDonald — will head to the event in Lake Tahoe, Nevada, across the weekend of October 1.
The Saturday will see the trio compete individually over a 16-mile course, before teaming up 24 hours later to negotiate a distance of eight miles.
The world’s best will be in attendance, but that has not stopped Skillen from having high aspirations.
“We will be up against the best of the best, so individually I would be chuffed to finish within the world’s top five,” she added.
“As for a team, I see no reason why we cannot come at least third.
“The teams from the USA and Canada look to have the big names, but if we can pull together as a team, we are capable of finishing on the podium.”
As well as the long distances and various obstacles, Skillen will also have to contend with the altitude that comes with competing in the mountains.
The gallops in Newmarket have been the location for some of her hectic training, as have parts of The Cotswolds.
Skillen, who has also purchased an altitude mask as part of her preparations, will warm up for the World Championships by racing at the European Championships in Andorra, next month.