Chrissie Wellington grew up in Bury St Edmunds, where she swam for the local club. In 2007, four years after her first triathlon, she left a career in international development to go pro in the Ironman event (2.4 mile swim, 112 mile bike and 26.2 mile marathon run). Within two months she was the first debutant and Briton to win the world championships. She has never lost an Ironman.


My legs are my horse. They carry me through my strongest disciplines – the bike and the run. Aesthetically they’re not bad, either.

Boobs aren’t my best assets. It’s the same with many endurance athletes. I’ve been building up my arms with big paddles in the pool. I do 50 press-ups a day on my knuckles – it strengthens your forearms.

In 2004 I worked for the Nepalese government. I took up mountain biking there. During a religious festival, work closed for two weeks and I spent the time cycling in the Himalayas. It made me realise I had a talent for endurance work and could perform effectively on very little food and drink.

The altitude benefits disappeared, but the mental strength didn’t. I knew I could climb 2,000m, even when the starting point was 1,500m above sea level; that’s why an Ironman doesn’t daunt me. I don’t go into it thinking: ‘Oh shit, this is nine hours.’ I think: ‘Bring it on.’ I love it. Really love it.

Training for 35 hours a week keeps the weight off. I have to make a conscious effort to put the pounds on. I avoid crisps, biscuits and cake, but consume a lot of cheese and chocolate, as they’re a dense form of calories.

Sometimes I train on no water and fuel. Maybe once a week I’ll do a long session in a fasted state. Before this year’s world championships I ate three muffins with honey, Philadelphia and jam at 4.15am, two-and-a-half hours before the start. Then a banana and a nice cup of tea. During the race I take caffeinated gels and Pro Plus tablets.

I live my life at 110mph. But I’m slowly maturing as an athlete, realising slower sessions are just as valuable as the faster stuff. It’s a constant battle, though, because I find the pain that comes with pushing yourself that little bit harder truly exhilarating.

I still harbour ambitions for the London Olympics. It would have to be at the shorter Olympic triathlon distance or bike racing, but I’m not sure I’ve enough speed in my legs.

I like scars. You haven’t lived if you haven’t got them. Three days before a 2007 triathlon, I sliced off the flap of skin between finger and thumb. It needed four stitches and I had to swim with a cycling glove on. I won.

by James Witts