If there’s one word that sums up the stories I’ve been focussing on during recent weeks, then it would be ‘courage.’

For the past 11 months I’ve been following the highs and lows endured by one amateur sportsman as he attempts to complete a year’s worth of challenges. This is no walk in the park mind. We’re talking about some of the most arduous events in the UK running and cycling calendar – from the physically punishing Iceman and Tuffman duathlons to all-out endurance events like the Brighton marathon and Snowden’s Man vs Mountain. Did he make it? And in the process raise much needed funds for the charity Operation Smile? Mark Johnson’s inspiring story is published in the January issue of Outdoor Fitness.

Doubtless the impact of World War One will touch us all strongly in 2014, so it was a privilege to look into the role of the Royal Victoria Military Hospital on behalf of Hampshire Life. Who’d have thought one of the largest and most important hospitals in the world once stood on the banks of Southampton Water? Yet if you scratch beneath the surface, a visit to the Royal Victoria Country Park today provides an intriguing glimpse into the past. For their invaluable assistance on the research front, a special shout-out goes to the Army Medical Museum in Aldershot (who supplied the wonderful archive photography), historian and author Philip Hoare and to the descendants of former artist and soldier Paul Smyth for sharing the tale of one man’s war with me. Humbling.

Often working to deadlines several months ahead of publication dates, it’s still a surprise to suddenly see a flurry of articles appear in quick succession. Usually it’s a case of grabbing the latest copy off the shelves and rushing home before taking a peek at the final layout and any subbing. On the latest trip to my local supermarket however, I couldn’t help myself. Four articles published in three regional titles – Baby Hampshire: sledging; Hampshire Life: Winchester’s choristers and Celebrity Antiques Road Trip; Surrey Life:Painshill Park‘s Crystal Grotto, were all on display in a single display. Apologies to my fellow shoppers for pulling my trolley up short and whipping out my camera phone, I just had to capture the moment!