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Beryl Burton-one of the Greatest Female Athletes Ever?

By Edited Nov 30, 2016 0 0

Personal Best: The Autobiography of Beryl Burton
Amazon Price: Buy Now
(price as of Nov 30, 2016)

The Woman who Broke  Men's and Women's Records

You may never have heard of this woman, unless you are British
aged 50 plus, or a cycling enthusiast. She raced in all forms of 
cycle racing, but her speciality was in time trialing. In British 
cycling this is where you cycle against the clock travelling half 
the distance one way and the other distance in the opposite 
direction to offset the effects of wind and hills. In this event, 
she was totally dominant over any woman and regularly beat the 
leading male proponents.

An Incredible Victory

Famously in 1967 she overtook Mike McNamara, the eventual winner 
of the Men's race after starting one minute later! McNamara broke 
the men's British record in this race and she had beaten him! The 
event, by the way, was the 12 hour time trial. Essentially, 
whoever cycles the most in 12 hours wins. Beryl had managed to 
chalk up 277.25 miles, at an average speed of over 23.1 m.p.h.
This record wasn't broken by a man for 2 years and has still not
be broken by any woman. That is a record which has lasted 45 
years! Very few records last that long-by way of example, the 
oldest men's world record in track and field is 26 years set by 
Jürgen Schult in 1986. Changes in Sports science, nutrition and 
technology, particularly in cycling have been great since 1967.

Other Records
She also set over 50 new national records at 10, 15, 25, 30, 50 
and 100-mile distances; her 10, 25 and 50-mile records each lasted 
20 years before being broken, her 100-mile record lasted 28 years.
As well as time-trialling, she was also the women’s world road
race championship in 1960 and 1967. On the track she was the 
individual pursuit world champion five times (1959, 1960, 1962, 
1963 and 1966). Women's cycling was not introduced until she 
reached the age of 47. She would undoubtedly have gained many gold 
medals if this had occurred when she was still young.

Tragic Ending
Beryl Burton always remained an amateur, despite being offered
professional contracts. She was steadfastly working-class, 
spending her days in the fields as a farm labourer, often doing 12 
hour shifts followed by 40 mile training runs on her bike. 
Unfortunately, she had a chronic medical condition, having
contracted rheumatic fever at the age of 12. Doctors had told her 
to not over exert herself! Sadly, the condition finally overcame 
her. Whilst out on her bike delivering invitations for her 59th 
birthday party she collapsed and died. 
Beryl Burton, a true working-class hero, I salute you!

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