The Road to the North Face Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc: Sporting heroes

Gail Edmans
john mcenroe 300x225 The Road to the North Face Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc: Sporting heroes

John McEnroe in 1981 (Getty Images)

Without wishing to come across as a weirdo stalker, if I could dedicate one room in my house to sporting heroes, I would plaster the walls with posters of John McEnroe, Rafa Nadal, Chrissie Wellington, Marion Jones, Lance Armstrong and Haile Gebrselassie, to name but a few. I have watched them, cried over them, cheered them, and to varying degrees, felt let down by them.

Anyone who loves sport has heroes they look to for inspiration in their own efforts. These superhumans help us mere mortals get across a finish line we might otherwise never reach. It’s hardly surprising that since these are public names, we never get to know what they’re really like. So maybe we shouldn’t be shocked when we discover that these “heroes” aren’t actually the people we thought they were. When we discover that they’re cheats or worse still, thoroughly unpleasant people. But we persist in putting sportspeople on a pedestal.

Recent sporting history has been littered with spectacular downfalls – Tiger Woods, Lance Armstrong and now, on a different level again, Oscar Pistorius. Of course real heroes – those who know how to behave both on and off the field of play – still far outnumber those who let us down.

At the same time, sporting scandals remind us of why we also need to draw on real friends as a source of inspiration. Had my friend Simon Ward not waxed lyrical about the Marathon des Sables at a training camp a few years ago and given me the confidence to enter, the life-changing world of ultra marathons would still be alien to me.

So when I headed out for my weekend’s training, it was Simon, not Oscar, who was on my mind. On Saturday I did a three-hour run all over Richmond Park. The weather was dry and I felt good and it was another useful step towards the UTMB which is now just six months away.

On Sunday I mixed things up a bit. I’m also a cyclist and this Sunday I’ve got quite a tough cyclo-sportive coming up – the Hell of the Ashdown. It’s just over 100 kilometres and it takes in a load of nasty climbs in Surrey and Sussex, so I took the opportunity to put in some hill work and rode out to Box Hill and back. I’ll write about the benefits of multi-sport training in a subsequent blog.

Box Hill, of course, had a starring role in the Olympic bike races (men and women) last year, and its status as a cycling mecca just keeps on growing. The hill was heaving and there was a long queue at the cafe at the top. Just loads of us lycra-clad amateurs doing our thing. Who needs sporting superstars?

Twitter follow: @Norsemouse

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  • Jason Seo Smith

    Good Luck Gail, we watched in awe last years UTMB and completed the 360 degree trek in 8 days Leisurely pace but still snowy! This year it’s Mont Blanc in July, we hope to summit in memory of those that were lost a few hours from us turning back last year!

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