My heart had never felt so free
Floored by feelings of anxiety, living in a van in central London to save money, she never stopped believing in her dream. To start a successful outdoor company in the beautiful Scottish Highlands.
Stacey is a 32-year-old newly founded Scot and a very stubborn young lady who has just started her own outdoor business, WayOutside, together with her husband Max.
They have both always been very ambitious and ‘winning’ for them was about being successful in the academic world. Their common goal was to get permeant science lectureships at the same top UK university, by publishing and presenting high quality scientific research.
After a few years of hard work (and not so much enjoying the essence in life) they both realised that achieving this type of success would also take a lot of sacrifice, both personal and financial.
In the same era, the concept “Skyrunning” was presented to them and they decided to try it. They entered their first Skyrace despite neither of them having any mountain experience.
The concept appealed to them a lot, and they wanted more.
The world became bigger than their universities and instead they started dreaming of an outdoor lifestyle, and to get them there they built a campervan which they could live and travel in.
They wanted to spend more time in the mountains moving across the land and swimming in the waters. And so they did…
This is Stacey’s story…
Your passion for Skyrunning? Where is that coming from?
We first ran the Salomon Ring of Steall Skyrace in the 2nd year of the Scotland skyline series. A friend was running the race the first year the skyline events were held in Scotland and reading his Facebook posts and seeing the race covered in running magazines was my first exposure to the concept of skyrunning. The idea of racing along ridgelines with your feet in the clouds just captured my imagination. I wanted to race this, I wanted to experience such trails and be someone who runs skyraces. Even the name sounded magical to me!
Despite my first skyrace being only 20 miles long, the mountainous terrain made the race the hardest thing I had ever put my body through. Unlike a low land race, you cannot switch your mind off, else you might plummet off the mountain! You had to be utterly in the moment and aware of your body and surroundings. It was just you, the sky and the mountains and you had to be right there in it the entire time. It took me 8hrs 45mins to get around that 20mile loop!
Can you tell us a little about your new company WayOutside?
At WayOutside we believe that the outdoors is for every-body and that no one is too slow. Our aim is to bring together like-minded people to swim, bike, run and hike in the Scottish outdoors – from the seas and lochs to moors and mountains! We cater for grassroots through to experienced runners and triathletes offering guided trips. We hosted a training camp last weekend aimed at trail running and ultra-runners. The participants ranged from hill walkers thinking about their first trail race to winning ultra-running athletes preparing for world championships.
We also host multi-sport training camps and are in the middle of organising a mid-winter 24 hour running race called the Tyndrum 24 next January.
What did you do for a living before WayOutside?
I was a radiotherapy physicist in the NHS since I finished university. Radiotherapy is the use of high energy X-rays to target and kill cancer cells in the body. During my time in the hospital I also studied for a PhD in Oncology at Cambridge University and later became a senior research fellow at the University College London in Proton Radiotherapy.
You have done a great change of direction in life. Can you please describe that?
It was not a sudden change, but it was a clear decision and a long story! Both Max and I are over achievers, very determined and ever willing to push ourselves to our limits. We had a very clear vision of success and a drive to win. Winning for us was academic, the goal was to both have permeant academic lectureships at the same top UK university. It was publishing and presenting high quality and policy changing science. Achieving this type of success takes a lot sacrifice, personal and financial.
However, we had another priority, to be with each other as much as possible and in our own home. Instead, in pursuit of our goal we found ourselves apart. I was working in London, and Max in Cambridge and we could not save for a house deposit while we had Cambridge rents and London commutes. It was also at this time we entered our first skyrace despite neither of us having any mountain experience!
The concept appealed to us so much, we had to try it! We purchased a car and on free weekends left the flat fenlands for the Brecon’s and the Peaks and then the Lakes and Borders, Troassachs and Mamores. I was running further, training for a 96mile race and Max was carrying out research in Antarctica. The world became bigger than our universities. Soon we dreamed of a campervan that we could live in and travel in, to spend more time in the mountains and to spend more time moving across the land and swimming in the waters.
To meet all our desires we built a campervan and moved into it, living in London on a campsite located between the M25 and M3, working full time in the university and trying to fit in our outdoor adventures and training on commutes, evenings and weekends.
Then in March 2018 on the shores of Loch Etive I was lying in our campervan trying to make a muscle memory for the angle my eyeball needed to look to focus on the mountaintop so that when I returned south, I could stare at the point in the sky and try to imagine a mountain there instead of thin air. I realised then that I could not bear to imagine my whole life ahead without them.
This was the moment I mentally quit. Max and I made a plan – to apply for jobs in Scotland and as soon as one of us got a job offer, we would quit and go and the other would build an outdoor business. In the meantime, we picked up skills to ensure our success and took as many opportunities as we could. I began writing articles for outdoor magazines, building an online presence and Max started open water swimming long distances and we both took on coaching courses and experience.
Then in December, Max was offered a job in Oban, within 3 weeks we left our campsite and drove to Scotland. My heart had never felt so free!
What is your inner drive?
What keeps me driven… it used to be fear, I used to be so afraid of failing! Now I guess I am actively risking failure and I am still scared all the time! I feel like an imposter every day and I am often floored by feelings of anxiety. But then I get a message from someone telling me what it means to their family to go open water swimming or a message from a reader telling me my blog has inspired them to run and I remember why I do this.
I love getting people outside and sharing my love for moving in the mountains and being still in the water.
Which is the most challenging and demanding situation you been through to get there?
Living in a van in central London to save money to make the change!
How does a normal day look like for you right now?
Right now, I am chained to the laptop setting up the business, but at weekends we are out in the land and sea all day. From our new home I can see the loch and the mountains and have never felt so settled or happy in my entire life. I am also starting a new job as the community sports hub officer for Argyll and Bute which I am really excited about.
Do you have any dreams and goals that you like to share?
Our business is only just up and running so that is our goal! To make a success of it and to help more people into the outdoors and mountains, but also to visit Scotland. One of the goals of WayOustide is to help those who do not feel there is a space in the outside for them to find it.
How does your game plan look like for that?
WayOutside is all about getting people moving in the outdoors, through wild swimming, trail running, mountain hiking, cycling and sleeping under the stars. Max focusses at the elite end of the spectrum, whereas my passion is more grass roots and the non-competitive. I love being a part of the community and, after years in the NHS, I understand the long term physical and mental health benefits of exercise and, in particular, exercise in nature.
What is your advice to other “hard working office people” that is dreaming of an active lifestyle running in the mountains?
Never give up, keep your dream present and don’t listen to those who say it’s silly. We printed a photo of Loch Etive (the place we wanted to set up the business) and mounted it on our van wall. That way, we could see our dream every morning and night, even though we were parked up in London! A year later, we now live with a view of that same loch from our bedroom window.
Do you have anything else in your life that you like to share or talk about in the blog?
Please check out our website www.wayoutside.co.uk and my personal blog www.wayrunning.wordpress.com and contact us if you are interested in any of our events or some guided trips. You can also follow us on Instagram @wayout.
Name: Stacey Holloway
Occupation: Founder of WayOutside Ltd
Nationality: I think we are Scottish now?!
Family: My husband Max and my wider family full of aunts, uncles, cousins and their children! We are all very close.
Country/town: Oban, Scotland
Running level: A very slow amateur!
Your team or sponsor: My company is WayOutside Ltd
Favourite races that you have run: Highland Fling and the Ring of Steall Skyrace
Company website: www.wayoutside.co.uk
Personal Blog: www.wayrunning.wordpress.com
Personal Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/staceylizabeth/
Company Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/wayoutsideuk/
Thank you, Stacey, for taking your time sharing your fantastic story! Wishing you all the best luck in the future both with your outdoor business and your SkyRunning.