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Karen Darke

Karen Darke is a highly skilled learning and development specialist. She is also a Paralympian silver medalist who speaks from the heart and inspires audiences around the globe. Karen focuses on overcoming challenges, embracing change and achieving the ‘unachievable.’ She has personal experience of working in corporate and public sectors and is able to connect with everyone.


About Karen Darke

Karen Darke was a keen runner and mountaineer before becoming paralysed in a rock-climbing accident, and has since pursued alternative ways to access the outdoors – canoeing, sit-skiing and hand-cycling. She has hand-cycled in various corners of the world, including Central Asia and the Himalaya, the Karakoram and the length of the Japanese archipelago.


Karen Darke has the philosophy that to have the most impact in life we should challenge our constraints, adopt a positive mind-set and support each other to be the best we can be.  Somewhat an expert in overcoming challenges, Karen finds much of her inspiration through outdoor adventure.

Karen has co-organised expeditions sea kayaking along the coastlines of British Columbia and Alaska, skiing across the Greenland icecap, climbing the kilometre-high vertical rock-face of El Capitan, and kayaking through the fjords of Patagonia. Karen has a PhD in Geology and an MA in Development Training. In 2013 she was awarded honorary doctorates from The University of Aberdeen and from Sheffield Hallam University, in recognition of her accomplishments and contribution in adventure and sport.

As a coach and facilitator, author and speaker, Karen Darke works regularly with young people, schools, businesses and other organisations particularly on the subject of challenge and change. She is currently a full-time athlete with the British Paracycling Team, won a silver medal in the London 2012 Paralympics, was World Paratriathlon Champion in 2012 and silver medallist in 2013, and in 2014 completed an Ironman distance triathlon, the backdrop to the film ‘Impossible’.  Karen trained with the British Cycling Team for the Rio 2016 Paralympics, whilst running her business ‘Inspire and Impact’ and fitting other adventures in whenever possible! “What is life if it isn’t an adventure? I’m constantly amazed by what can be achieved if we set our heart and mind to it. It’s all about finding belief, confidence, motivation and commitment. And of course, friends. Then there are no limits.”

Her first book ‘If You Fall’ tells the story of her accident, adapting to being paralysed, and some early adventures. The second, ‘Boundless’ is about her adventures in Greenland and climbing El Capitan. Both are available at

Speech Topics

– “The thing my disability and ensuing adventures makes me most obviously qualified to talk about is ‘overcoming challenge’ but my experiences also allow me to talk about motivation, change, achievement, teams work, leadership, diversity and inclusivity, risk.”

– How do we overcome challenges?

– Why is it that some of us are fortunate enough to fall down, pick ourselves up, brush off the dust and go again, whilst others let it stop them?

– Through my personal experiences, adventures and some ongoing research with others who have tackled great challenge, I enjoy sharing some understanding as to how we can learn from the difficult stuff, and use it to do the positive stuff.

– How we turn things around, no matter how difficult or seemingly impossible they may seem.

– If we can know ourselves better, we can explore our abilities, and achieve all manner of things we may previously have thought impossible.

Booking Information


"Karen is very modest about what she has achieved since her accident. Her gentle manner means she is able to inspire and motivate others. Her can do approach is infectious. She touched many people and was simply inspirational."

Breathing Space Training Consultants

"Just meeting Karen Darke is an uplifting experience at a personal level, her passion and enthusiasm are bound to rub off on anyone who works with her. She is a natural communicator & coach, working equally effectively one to one, with small teams and in large group situations. I admire the way she has turned life changing personal difficulties into positive opportunities and ever stretching challenges. She changed her career from being a highly regarded technical specialist to becoming a coach, mentor and life long learning adviser and a champion for diversity in a very non-diverse multi national organisation."

Shell Europe

"Karen's captivating story shines a bright light on the meaning of challenge, and on the limitless capabilities of the human spirit."

Polar Explorer

"I am writing to say a massive thank you for agreeing to speak at our conference dinner and for delivering one of the most inspirational and moving presentations I have ever heard – and I am not alone in thinking that! The feedback has been outstanding. Thank you so much and I hope that I will get the opportunity to hear you speak again and to see you compete in the Paralympics."


"Just to say a big thank you - the team thought it was a great day and your presentation was extremely inspiring. You’ll be pleased to hear following your visit everyone is going great guns, targets so far are being smashed, so we’re climbing our mountain nicely. Thank you!"

ILX Group

"We want to thank you so much for the outstanding talk you delivered at the launch of the Naval Ships ‘Inspiring Excellence' Leadership Programme yesterday. Our audience was in awe of your story and for us, very importantly, your references to ‘mind work’ were superbly linked to the messages that the IE programme will be delivering. We liked how frank and authentic your delivery was – particularly that you do have to overcome negative mindsets sometimes and the way that you do that. Your delivery style was relaxed but structured and your visuals really supported the story and brought it to life. We are challenging leaders to make small incremental changes to their performance and that of the business as a whole. Hearing how you have identified small changes to make a difference to your overall performance as a serious competitor brought home this is truly achievable and requires focus and commitment. We are hoping to find the opportunity to bring you back to follow up later on in the year and in the meantime will not hesitate to recommend you as a motivational inspiring speaker."

Emerge Development Consultantcy Ltd


Karen Darke News

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