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"Being in the moment during the race, no distractions or juggling priorities, to have life reduced down to your basic needs and movement along a pre-decided line, to get deep in and filled by wonder at nature, it feels beyond refreshing, it feels like pure freedom."

Based in Glencoe and competing in Ultra Marathon distance events across the UK, Brian has been quietly working his way into the Elite categories in his field.

He’s been on the podium at the Scottish Islands Peak Race, competed in many of the UK’s toughest mountain challenges and is gearing up for his best year yet in 2022. A keen mountain explorer and professional content creator, Brian loves to share his mountain running adventures online - @brianpetersharp

We take a pause to learn a little more about Brian.

Tell us about yourself, and where you are from?

My name’s Gail, I’m a physiotherapist and cyclist based in Bristol.

I'm not one of those people who's life is a straight line progression, mine is an unpredictable squiggle.

I absolutely won the lottery of life being born into my family. My childhood was happy, safe and full of learning in the outdoors. It's only recently I've realised what a springboard that was to being able to choose my own adventures as an adult.

Not being sure what I wanted to do with my life (I'm still not), I have a degree in Archaeology, volunteered for the National Trust on graduating, then worked as a cycle courier and cycling instructor whilst also freelancing as an expedition leader. After a while I decided that I should try to find some stability and qualified as a physiotherapist in 2017 but my passion for endurance cycling is leading me down an unexpected path as an athlete.

What's your back story, and how did you get into the outdoors and your particular discipline?

I've always cycled, even as a baby I was carried around by bicycle. During my childhood it was more a means of transport with the occasional family cycle tour. However, as I've grown older it's been a source of independence, community, exploration and competition.

Identifying what type of cyclist I am is an increasingly difficult task. Commuting, road riding, gravel or mountain adventures, short rides for coffee, multi-day race epics and everything in between, I love it all. So recently I’ve been enjoying the concept of identifying a value I want to embody on the bike rather than a discipline. I’m not ‘an ultra cyclist’, it’s just an area of cycling that I’m having fun exploring right now.

I don’t need to hold onto it too tightly. I can change direction without feeling that I’ve lost my identity. So the value I want to embody the most is enthusiasm, as long as I’m approaching my cycling and my life with enthusiasm I’ll be myself, whatever’s happening. In terms of how I've ended up in the ultra-cycling world, I think I've always favoured endurance activity.

As I mentioned, I have a very outdoorsy family. I learnt so many skills from a young age, family holidays often involved wild camping and navigating around the hills. So I think I've always been in awe of nature, I feel safe there and getting to move outside all day is my happy place. I started cycling as a sport when I did triathlon in my late teens and loved it... but for me, cycling was by far the most joyful activity of the three.

After spending a year as a cycle courier I was super strong on the bike and dipped my toes into an endurance race or two. That feeling of 'journey' and connection with where you were moving through and the other people in the race really hooked me in. At the same time my partner was preparing to ski across Antartica and my predominant emotion wasn't concern, it was raging jealousy.

We discussed it and Ollie encouraged me to find my own huge adventure. I decided to enter The Transcontinental, a self supported ultra-race between 4 checkpoints that in 2019 went from Burgas in Bulgaria to Brest in France. I had the most amazing time in the lead up and during the race. I finished my 4200km route in 13 days 5 hours and 1 minute which surpassed my wildest estimations. But the real value was how much I'd learnt along the way and it's led me to continue being curious about what I'm capable of.

Which trips, expeditions, or achievements are you most proud of? 

Following Transcontinental I've competed in several other cycling ultra races. GBDURO in 2020; a 2000km multi-terrain Land's End to John O Groats. I did the mad self-sufficient version created in response to the Covid pandemic in which all competitors had to carry all their food for the entire event and couldn't enter any buildings.

It was an incredible format that turned the UK into a wilderness. Only 15 people were stupid enough to enter and only 5 of us finished. I came third, despite my pannier rack breaking at only 400kms, I fixed it with cable ties and duct tape and nursed it a further 1600kms to the finish. Highland Trail in 2022, a 550mile off-road race in Scotland that in some sections would certainly be quicker without the bike.

Competitors are hit by the full force of highland beauty whilst navigating the brutality of trail. I came to the start expecting to get absolutely humbled by the mountains, and I did but I also surprised myself by my transformation from wondering if I could finish to wondering if I could be the first women home, which I was.

Most recently I finished the Atlas Mountain Race, a 1336km route that swings out East from Marrakech over the high Atlas Mountains and then down and round to Essaouira on the coast. It was an incredible journey, full of revelations. These races are just one part of my outdoors achievement. I'm a huge supporter of the belief that everyone can have adventures and that they don't have to be epic-ultra races.

You can find adventure anywhere with the right mindset. I really enjoy appreciating every day journeys, choosing active transport where I can. Encouraging others to explore their capability and enjoy moving outside as much as possible.

Tell us a little bit about your life outside of cycling?  

I live just outside of Bristol with my partner Ollie. When I'm not cycling or working I'll be enjoying being at home. I don't believe that life has to be constantly seeking adventure, sometimes getting to lie on the sofa and read a book or watch a movie is one of the best feelings in the world.

I'm a physiotherapist. Currently, to allow for longer trips away I'm on a zero hours contract and pick up shifts in a local hospital. I also work with adapted cyclists at a centre called Warmley Wheelers; helping to get people out and experience riding in whatever way they can. I've also been dipping my toes into elite sport and have been going on some British Cycling trips with the XC mountain bike team and this last Autumn I experienced the madness of supporting cyclocross for the first time.

To work with such a spectrum of individuals is an absolute privilege, to help people live to their fullest whatever it is they're trying to achieve brings so much joy and perspective.

Notable Achievements

  • 50km PB of 3 hours 29 minutes

  • Competed in the Elite category at the 2021 Golden Trail Series

  • Bennachie Ultra 3rd place