Creating together


Career Change: Resilience through a New Direction

Jen combined

Jennifer Bradley, Director, Running Holidays

As I ran across the Swiss-Italian border with the sun shining and slushy snow beneath my trail shoes at 3050m above sea-level; I had the Matterhorn to the right and the valleys of Italy to my left. And with only a 6kg backpack with water, snacks and a few essentials for the four day trip but I felt as light as a feather. Bounding over the high mountain passes and along the haute route of the Tour de Mont Rosa, a 160km circumnavigating trail of the second largest Alpine mountain, I thought this is living, this is what I want to do, and this is how I want to make my living.

I left Newcastle University in 2001 with a BA (Hons) Economics and gained post graduate qualifications at both York and Birkbeck. I then went on to join the UK government economic fast stream in 2003, and after 12 years hard work made it to the Senior Civil Service, Head of Labour Market Strategy. With multidisciplinary teams of economists, statisticians, researchers and policy staff I led the division responsible for employment programmes and welfare reforms at the Department for Work and Pensions. I enjoyed my job; the problem solving, the policy challenges, the politics. I’d worked at HM Treasury, in Private office as Private Secretary to the Secretary of State, and had a further glittering career ahead of me.

But for 5 years I’d had another passion which was always on my mind; long distance trail running. In 2012, I took 3 months off work to run across the USA and covered 3302 miles in 80 days. The next summer I ran across France and competed in various ultramarathons in Europe and the US. Most of my weekends were spent in the mountains trail running, the perfect antidote to the hustle and bustle of Westminster.

I’d never completely settled working in an office environment and 12 years was enough, I‘d not have a better chance to travel and combine running with my working life. So I resigned. To the shock of many peers and colleagues, with many commenting on how  ‘brave’ and ‘inspiring’ my decision was, and how I was ‘following  my dreams’, it was the change I craved and the risk I needed to take to shake my life up.

My previous working at the heart of Government made me very resilient over the years. And dealing with the stresses and problems of economic policy through a recession on a daily basis toughened me up. As did running, which was the outlet for my determination to strive to challenge myself. Resilience is about adapting to change, and, though it was self-imposed, I did just that. After taking some time out in South Africa to both travel and run; I set up Running Holidays to make use of my running expertise and organisational skills. Leaving the comfort of familiar surroundings behind in London I had to adapt to living out of a suitcase, or more often a running back pack. As I was on the move a lot of the time, I tended to think of myself as a mobile office. Researching and setting up a company has been a challenge, being a team of one a massive change from the big division I led. I know they’ll be big challenges ahead – my first organised trips start this May and continue over the summer. I’m recruiting run leaders and there’s bound to be hurdles and problems to solve but with one career behind me and another just starting I’m confident the next will be more in tune with where I want to be – running in the fresh mountain air!

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