This is the story of Jules Hobson; an adventure racer, mountain biker, climber and runner, who in her late twenties had a lifetime of adventures ahead of her, and so many plans and ideas for mountains to climb and trails to ride.
Jules experienced the most devastating loss when Gareth, her new husband, and best friend of a decade, died on a climbing trip only eighteen months after their wedding.
To cope, and to bring her closer to Gareth – who was the person with whom she most loved sharing her love of the outdoors – Jules has thrown herself into a life of adventure.
From mountain bike guiding in the Alps to climbing trips all over Europe and an off road ride from Lands End to John O’Groats, Jules has found solace in the mountains and open skies of the world.
She gives us a precious insight into her life since she tragically lost Gareth and her adventure-based coping strategy.
Have you ever loved someone so completely that your lives are totally entwined? A truly deep, intimate friendship, a companionship developed through years of growing closer to each other? I have. I was lucky to spend the best years of my life, and my whole life as an adult to that point, with my amazing husband Gareth.
And then my worst nightmare became a reality.
On the 22nd November 2011, while away on a year long trip of a lifetime, my husband, best friend, and constant companion of the last 9 years, died in America following a climbing accident.
Gareth and I had been away since August, having the time of our lives, living our dreams in some amazing places. We had never been so happy, carefree and content. Life couldn’t have been better. And then everything fell to pieces.
Death of a soul mate
When Gareth died, it felt like part of me died too. I was totally lost, lonely, and confused about how life could suddenly have gone from being so perfect, to so terrible.
It seemed completely impossible to think about getting through each day, never mind the whole of the rest of my life without the one person I had thought I couldn’t live without.
I felt so overwhelmed by sadness and grief, I felt like I didn’t know who I was without Gareth, or where I belonged, or what I was going to do with myself now all the plans and dreams we had for the future had gone. I lost my enthusiasm for everything and just didn’t want to exist.
Adventure-based coping strategy
There are no instructions or guidebooks for what to do when the most important person in your life dies, or how to pick up the pieces and try to build a new life for yourself when not a single part of the old one can ever be the same.
No-one tells you just how profoundly losing your husband will affect you. They can have no real idea. Grief is so much more than just immense sadness. It is laziness and lethargy, lack of motivation or caring about anything.
It is physical too, like something is squeezing your chest to the point where you can’t take a deep breath, spinning you round so you feel constantly dizzy. It is a pain so deep inside you that is worse than any broken bones.
Gareth was an awesome yet incredibly modest mountain biker, and it was through him that I really got into biking. I’m competitive by nature and I was always trying to keep up with him, up and down hills and on technical terrain, and although I will never possess the same natural talent that he had on a bike, I think he was fairly proud of his missus’s skills. I would get down (almost) everything he did, just maybe not quite as fast or as stylishly!
A few months after losing Gareth, I started going out riding my bike; sometimes alone, sometimes with friends. At first it felt strange to not be out with him, laughing and having fun together as usual, and I felt a kind of guilt to be out trying to enjoy myself when Gareth was no longer able to do so.
But I felt none of the same excitement or passion that I once had done when riding my bike, and favourite rides and places seemed empty and dull without Gareth there too.
Very slowly, I began to enjoy myself a little. When I rode, I would remember him so easily. It was painful, but made me smile as well as cry. I found that on my bike, pedalling away in whatever weather, I was starting to ‘feel’ again – feel alive, and glad to be alive.
I was able to enjoy the simple pleasure of working hard climbing a steep hill, trying not to ‘dab’ on a technical climb, or finding my flow on a fast swoopy descent.
I felt closest to Gareth when I was outside, in the fresh air and the hills, away from the hustle and bustle and fast pace of life, and the rest of the world that seemed to be carrying on as though nothing had happened.
Looking ahead down the trail
I decided that I needed to set myself a challenge. Something to motivate me and force me to be doing something positive. I thought of some of the things that had been on mine and Gareth’s “list" of adventures to do together at some point.
It needed to involve the things that were helping me; riding my bike in cool places, spending time with friends and not being in the same place for too long. It needed to be a journey.
In the next article, Jules shares the adventures and targets she set herself to continue coping with the loss of her husband Gareth.