Chrissie Wellington stunned the world of triathlon, and maybe even herself, by breaking the Ironman world record for women in Roth, Germany, in July. The time she beat was her own, clocking in at 8:19:13, 12 minutes and 46 seconds faster than her previous record. The Brit also has the distinction of winning the most esteemed triathlete victory three years in a row: Ironman Kona in 2007, 2008, and 2009. She'll be back this year to go for number four. Here's a look into what makes the champion tick. Be sure to check the Outside Blog for more posts by Wellington as she heads toward the big day at Kona.
As a child I grew up watching a popular British television show called Record Breakers. I remember singing along to the theme song, "Dedication," which, as I recall, went a little something like this:
Dedication, that's what you need
If you wanna be the best
If you wanna beat the rest
Oh, oh, dedication's what you need
If you wanna be a record breaker, Oooooh."
One of my childhood dreams was to one day be a "record breaker," and last month at Challenge Roth (a famous Ironman race in Germany) I managed to make that dream a reality--by breaking the world record for a second time and being pronounced the fastest ever Ironman female triathlete.
I am so proud to have achieved this feat and to have my name etched in the triathlon history books. But all the talk beforehand among journalists and athletes of breaking records--and then actually managing to do so--made me think a bit more deeply about what was driving me. Was it records, the thought of victory, the desire to improve, to make my family and friends proud, or something else?
As the theme tune above makes clear, being an athlete requires dedication and sacrifice, and it will not always be pretty, yet thousands do it every day, each driven by a different carrot and stick. Here are a few of the factors that motivate me:
1. A deep love for the sport. Triathlon is downright difficult--it hurts!--and only if you truly have a passion for the sport can you dedicate your heart and soul to it.
2. Winning--or, more accurately, the feeling of joy, satisfaction, and pride when I cross the line. That’s why I try my hardest to soak up the atmosphere on the course, especially on the finish line, and to bank it in my vault of memories to draw on again and again. But there are other times, too, when I haven’t won. These "bad days" are just as valuable. An "off day" gives me more to learn from, the hurdle of emotional disappointment to climb over, and that extra fuel for the fire.
3. The platform for change. To be able to roll across the line in memory of the courageous and inspirational Jon Blais (in support of the Blazeman Foundation for ALS, waronals.com), to have the opportunity to deliver a message in my winner’s speech, to meet so many awesome people, to raise awareness about important causes, to give interviews and speak about things of which I am passionate, to be an ambassador and role model that everyone can be proud of. The more I win, the bigger that platform for positive change will be. And when I train and race, this is at the fore of my mind.
4. Pain. The masochist in me likes to hurt. Likes to know I am pushing myself to the limit, and maybe even over it. Because in racing, I know that when the hurt hits, I have already conquered it.
5. Of course, as professionals we need to make a living. Bills cannot be paid by blood, sweat, tears, or Hershey's kisses. So I, as with all professional athletes, need to have one eye on the bank balance, and the fact that an extra effort could make the difference between overjoyed and overdrawn is enough to put the fire under anyone’s Lycra-clad backsides.
6. On the other hand, I would be lying if I said I didn’t have an eye on breaking the record at Roth. Of course I did, but it wasn’t my main focus. I just want to go as hard as I can, for as long as I can. And then find that little bit more. If that means I go faster than anyone has gone before, then that’s just the icing on the cake.
7. My family. No matter how old I am, I still want to make my parents proud, and through my performances repay them for the support they have always given me.
8. But most of all, I am motivated by that little something inside. That seed that won't rest until I know I have fulfilled my potential and been the best that I can be. I think deep down we all have that seed, that little voice. I just think some people are scared to listen to it, scared to try, scared of failure. Fear of the unknown could have stopped me giving up my career back in 2007 and having a go at professional triathlon. Luckily for me, I quashed that fear--and instead listened to the voice inside that told me never to think "what if," the seed that compels me to try and reach new, difficult, and, yes, daunting goals.
Photos courtesy of Cannondale