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Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

Connecting women and opportunity

Womanthology is a digital magazine and professional community powered by female energy and ingenuity.

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My journey from troubled teen to champion rally driver and adventurer – Penny Mallory, Presenter and Motivational Speaker

Penny Mallory

Penny Mallory is a presenter and motivational speaker who was a self-acknowledged troubled teen, who found herself homeless following a family breakdown. As an adult she bounced back against the odds in spectacular style to become a champion rally driver and ‘adventurer’, training her mind and body every day. Today Penny’s public speaking helps people transform their lives through her work in prisons, schools, homeless shelters, blue chip offices and at world class sporting events.

Penny Mallory
Penny Mallory

“…I’d never ever ever had this boy girl thing going on in my head. I was there to compete and be better than anyone else. Whether they were pink or blue, I really really wasn’t interested…”

My story

I had a lovely upbringing. Very middle class, public school. All very lovely but my family fell apart and so did I with it. I left home when I was 14. I went off the rails. I went to London and lived in homeless hostels for a couple of years. Just bit of a self-destructive, sorry for myself character really.

I’d always had a dream in the back of my head to be a rally driver. After a couple of years of being down and out and really miserable with life ebbing away I decided I was going to have a go at getting my dream to come true.

I embarked on turning my life around really and got into driving and got up to championship level. I get bored very easily so I do change what I’m doing and my surroundings regularly. It’s just me, my craziness and my life.

Realising enough was enough

I suppose most people get to their lowest point before something has to change. When I was homeless I was really was very, very low. My boyfriend was a heroin addict. The environment I was in was just shocking. So I’d got to my absolute lowest point and I remember walking down the street in Clerkenwell in London and watching a man cleaning some windows and I thought, “right now that’s as much of a career as I can possibly look at.” There’s nothing wrong with cleaning windows, but I just thought, this has got to stop. Enough. Enough. Enough. I just thought, “Enough. Get yourself together. Turn it around. Only you can” And that was it.

It didn’t happen overnight. It was a bit of a process, but as far as I recall, that was the trigger point for me.

Making the transition from life on the street to life as a rally champion

Ford Escort MK2So I had to go to the bank and lie. I said that I needed to borrow some money for a car. I didn’t tell them it was a rally car. So I borrowed about £6000 from the bank and went off to rally school and bought £6000 worth of lessons.

I was very lucky that I got sponsored very, very quickly. If I hadn’t got sponsored quickly, I don’t think I’d be telling this story, but a guy sponsored me for a couple of years. He bought me a MK2 Escort and we did the national championships and I kept borrowing more money from the bank and it took me about 14 years to pay the money back. It was just a case of going up for some lessons and throwing myself at it completely.

Fighting spirit

Because I left home so young and looked after myself and I did everything for myself, I didn’t rely on anyone, I couldn’t – there wasn’t anyone to rely on, in fact the opposite. At times I was caring for my mum. I was the carer and I resented it and it made me sad. So I just had a bit of a fighting spirit in me and then I got into a competitive environment, which I guess apart from school, I hadn’t been accustomed to and I rather liked the idea of taking on somebody and seeing if I could beat them. And it was far more pleasurable if it was blokes! It just made me smile! And in a car, just to double the blow really for the men. They hate being beaten by a girl.

So I found it compelling and I wanted to be better and better and better and better and I wanted to beat everyone. I wanted to stick two fingers up to the world and go, “See, I could do it!” That’s what was going on in my head.

There were a few girls before me and a few girls after me. I mean when I say a few, if there were 100 cars in a rally, one or two of them might have been girls, if that. So not a lot of female competition. But I’d never ever ever had this boy girl thing going on in my head. I was there to compete and be better than anyone else. Whether they were pink or blue, I really really wasn’t interested.

People have asked me all my life what it’s like being a woman in a man’s world and I can’t seriously answer the question because it just didn’t play a part in my world. I was just a competitor, as were they. So it wasn’t a girl / boy thing at all. It didn’t factor in. I drove because I loved driving and I wanted to be in the car and dashing through forests and up all night covered in mud, you know changing wheels. That was what I loved. It wasn’t about showing the way for women. It couldn’t have been further from my mind. I was doing it for absolutely all the selfish reasons. I wanted to do it for me because it pleased me.

There’s nobody who’s rich or famous or a celebrity who inspires me. The people that I meet who inspire me are ordinary people who I meet who do extraordinary things that nobody ever gets to hear about. It’s the people that go the extra mile and then some to do amazing things. It’s those people that inspire me.

Helping others to change their circumstances by sharing my story

I suppose what I would like to think I do is open the possibilities in people’s minds. That’s all. And the thought that they could think differently, act differently and change everything. It’s the most amazing feeling. I’ve had e-mails over the years regularly from people saying, “I heard you speak at this thing and I went off and I did that thing that I wanted to do. Now I’m doing it and I just wanted to say thanks.”

Those e-mails just mean the world. You could talk to an audience or a group and you never really find out anything. You don’t have any sort of follow up. When people do get in touch and say “thanks” it’s extraordinary. To think you have any sort of impact or influence on someone else’s life is lovely.

To have some influence on somebody else making a decision because you gave them that feeling, of confidence I suppose, it’s lovely.

From rally driving to all round adventuring

When I stopped driving there was a massive gaping hole in my life so I tried to fill it with things that scared me or pushed me. So I climbed Mount Elbrus, which is the highest mountain in Europe and one of the seven highest peaks in the world. I’ve trained for a triathlon. I did three marathons in three days. Two boxing matches. Every year I do something sort of dramatic and exciting that pushes me. Just because I am that sort of person, I need to have things going on. It’s really nice to have things to focus on.

I’m in addition to my public speaking and presenting, I’m currently organising a ‘Rumble in the Cotswolds’, which is a white collar boxing match where I living in Chipping Norton, which has never been done. We’ve just launched that. We’re trying to get Chipping Norton fighting fit. We’re doing that for a local charity. The response has been fantastic. And after that. Who knows?

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