I want to say a HUGE congratulations to a very special, and inspirational lady – Debbie Southwood. Debbie and her wonderful husband Tauny are the life and soul of the Birmingham Running and Triathlon Club (the BRATs) – the club that recruited me as a fresh faced novice. The Southwoods are famous for hosting the best post race BBQ after the National Relays, and the 2004 party didn’t disappoint. I will remember it mainly for the constant flow of fine alcoholic beverages (although the memory did get a little hazy after a few too many fine glasses). Anyway, Debbie and Tauny are like my second mum and dad whenever I go back to Birmingham. I stay at the Southwood mansion, eat all their food and spread my smelly lycra all over their clean floors. And still they have me back!

Anyway, Debbie is an amazingly talented athlete. She swam for Australia at the Munich Olympics in 1972, as a 16 year old – and always beats me out of the water, despite being a few…uummmmm….decades my senior. However Debbie was unfortunately involved in horrific bike crash at the 2006 World Ironman 70.3 Championships in Florida, where she fractured her pelvis and was virtually immobile. A broken pelvis would take most people years to recover from, but Debbie demonstrated huge strength of character, determination and perseverance and was swimming, cycling and running within a few months of being hospitalised. Even more amazing is that, only 7 months after the crash, Debbie not only started Ironman Switzerland in 2007, but finished on the podium in a personal best time of 12:54. And it gets better! Last weekend at Ironman France Debbie clocked a 54min swim – beating the majority of the pro girls out of the water – hammered out a 6hr40 bike and a 4.09 marathon, winning her age group, breaking the course record for the 50-54 women by 2 hours and earning herself a slot for Kona.

Debbie. I, and so many others, admire everything you have achieved, and we will all be cheering as loudly as we can for you in Hawaii in October. Well done again!