Sunday, 20 December 2015

The Greatest Woman On Two Wheels

A few weeks ago I went to see a play about cyclist Beryl Burton written by Maxine Peake. Being a keen cyclist myself I already knew the story of Beryl and wondered if the performance would do it justice. I was not disappointed. Read this and be inspired.

Beryl Burton (1937 – 1996) dominated the sport of cycling from the late 1950s. Having won numerous world championships, her last domestic title was won in 1986 at the age of 49. She did this despite suffering chronic health problems as a child. She set several national and world records; one of them even beating the men's record.
 
The story of how she broke the 12 hour record in 1967 has gone down in cycling legend. The race began on open roads with the women starting two minutes behind the men. Despite calls of nature and problems with her bike she caught the leading man, Britain's best all-rounder Mike McNamara, and cycled alongside him. As is the habit of most long-distance cyclists, she carried a bag of sweets in her back pocket in order to keep up her energy levels. She offered Mike a liquorice allsort, which he is said to have accepted with good grace. Beryl then pulled away to set a record of 277.25 miles beating McNamara by three quarters of a mile. It was another two years before a man beat her record. Nearly fifty years later that distance still stands today as the women's record, despite new bike technology, modern nutrition and professionalism.
 
On May 5th 1996 Beryl went out to deliver party invitations for her upcoming 59th birthday. On her bike of course. She collapsed and died of heart failure, possibly due to cardiac arrhythmia with which she had been diagnosed at an early age.

These days, if a man achieves a fraction of the things Beryl did, he is awarded a knighthood.

16 comments:

  1. My goodness - I didn't know this. What an inspiring story, Keith.

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    1. Great story isn't it, Wendy? On top of all her sporting achievements she was also a wife and mother.

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  2. Gosh, amazing she isn't better known. Thank you for telling her story, Keith.

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    1. She was runner up to boxer Henry Cooper in the BBC Sports Personality Of The Year 1967. Thanks for commenting, Beatrice.

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    1. If you made this story up no one would believe you. Thanks for visiting, Patsy.

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  4. Amazing woman, and unknown to many. Thanks for sharing this, Keith.

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    1. Thanks, Carol. It was a pleasure to do it.

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  5. What an amazing woman! Thanks for posting about her, Keith. Very glad to hear about the play too!

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    1. Thanks, Teresa. It's not easy to put a play about cycling on the stage but Maxine managed it.

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  6. It isn't often that a female can compete with and man, and even less often that a female can win. She must have been quite a determined gal! Hats off to her.

    And to you! Here's wishing you a most wonderful Christmas, and all the best in the new year.

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  7. Thanks, Susan. Looking forward to more of your informative posts.

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  8. I have heard about this lady before - perhaps there was a piece about her on Countryfile or a similar programme. She sounds a tough cookie!

    Have a wonderful Christmas, and a very successful 2016.

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    1. She was a Yorkshire lass and they are famed for being tough and uncompromising.
      Thanks for commenting, Joanne. Have a great Christmas and plenty of New Year successes.

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  9. Wow. What an achievement. It's difficult to believe that she still holds the record after all the advancements that have been made. What an incredible athlete.

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    1. I wanted to make her a little more famous. Thanks for commenting, Angela.

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