I’m beginning to get back on my road bike so to face imminent dark mornings leaving a warm bed for the cold road I’ve been working on perhaps an over-looked training aspect – inspiration.
What I have been searching for is the kind of inspiration which quashes excuses and pushes you harder than you thought you could go. The one person who without fail can do this, in my opinion, is Beryl Burton. A Yorkshire lass whose grit, determination and dedication led her to become a world-class cyclist whose 40-year career has left a mark to this day.
Thirty-two years on and Beryl’s 12 hour time trial record of 1967 has been unbeaten despite the many advances in cycling technology. As if this alone was not enough it is definitely worth a mention that in doing so she became the only woman to beat a men’s competition record. At this point I am running the risk of using the word ‘also’ a lot, so forgive me but a list seems to be the only way to allow you to digest some of her most notable achievements.
- 3,000 metres pursuit – world champion five times, 2nd three times and 3rd four times
- National Champion thirteen times, 2nd once, 3rd once
- World road racing champion twice, 2nd once
- British Best All-rounder champion (time trials) twenty-five successive years, 2nd once
- 100 miles champion eighteen times, 2nd once
- 50 miles champion twenty-three times, 2nd once
- 25 miles champion twenty-five times, 2nd once
- 10 miles champion four times, 2nd once, 3rd once
- Yorkshire best all rounder champion twenty-five times
- 12 hour time trial world record – still held
These alone can astound but to understand the woman who worked for this is where I begin to find real inspiration. Beryl was not a professional cyclist and as such she had to balance out competing with her role as a mother, provider and housewife. She would push her daughter Denise in a buggy with one hand and have her bike in the other ready to head to work. And as her ambitions and achievements grew so did the commitment and necessity of winning not only for pride but to support her family.
Beryl trained consistently though out her career and as such even when she was 47 years old she was invited to race in the first women’s Tour de France, an offer she subsequently turned down. At 25 I can’t imagine being of that level of fitness even now never mind when I’m 47! Just yesterday I got up just a few hours earlier than usal and put in some miles, now when I compare this to the life Beryl lived and the commitment she gave to cycling I feel the mantra of this winter will be in Beryl’s words –
“Miles – plenty of ‘em!”