Helen Russell: a European and World Champion, and a member of Geoff Thomas’s team for Le Tour: One Day Ahead!
I remember the first time I met Helen in our adult lives, it was at a NUS Women’s Conference in Blackpool. We shared socialist feminist politics and geography (growing up in the same part of Worcestershire). Helen’s memory is better than mine because we actually went to the same middle school, which prompted her, when she saw me milling about in Blackpool years later, to say “hello!” After our student activist days, we inevitably saw less of one another and in more recent years we’d pretty much lost touch altogether. (That said, the annual hand-delivered Christmas card and letter to the Bassi family residence is to Helen’s credit!) What I do sharply recollect of Helen from our early days was her mental strength. Helen combined mental toughness and emotional intelligence. She demonstrated this in her socialist feminist politics from the macro right through to the micro. Also, while most of the rest of us back then never seriously considered mortality as part of life, Helen had to deal with the loss of her mum. She always struck me as wise and mature and yet she had a sparky youthful and playful side too. She had some brilliant idiosyncrasies: her bedtime onesies, for instance (yes, she was the original trendsetter!) Many things, small and large, added up to making Helen a remarkable person, comrade and friend.
Helen’s sporting accompishments in her thirties are something I find extraordinary and breathtaking, but given her attributes above, perhaps they’re not surprising. In truth, it only struck home just how significant these are when Anaemic On A Bike, quite late in the day, herself began to exercise and show an interest in athleticism. It’s a real delight and honour for me to have Comrade Russell as a role model in the macho competitive world of sport. Who better!
In 2015 Helen raised the bar up, up, and beyond! She was one of two female cyclists invited to ride on Geoff Thomas’s team of Le Tour: One Day Ahead for Cure Leukaemia. Chumrade Helen cycled 2,087 miles and climbed over 40,000 metres. Now I’ve cycled 100 miles in one day (twice), but an average of 100 miles a day for three weeks on a variety of terrain, well that’s something else, and beyond my comprehension… That’s the endurance feat of the Tour de France which surely no other event can surpass for mental and physical effort. Very few people in the world could ride that. Anaemic On A Bike couldn’t be more proud – “Allez, Allez Helen!”
Here are just some of Helen’s accomplishments:
Rode the Tour de France, One Day Ahead
1st European Sprint Triathlon Championships (35-39 age category)
1st Overall Female European Sprint Duathlon Championships (35-39 age category)
1st British Aquathlon Championships (35-39 age category)
1st Vale of Glamorgan Duathlon (Welsh National Duathlon Championships)
1st World Sprint Duathlon (35-39 age category)
24th (4th in age category and 2nd British female finisher), Alp d’Huez Triathlon, France
3rd British Sprint Triathlon Championships (35-39 age category)
3rd British Duathlon Championships (35-39 age category)
2nd European Duathlon Championships, Nancy, France (35-39 age category)
3rd World Aquathlon Championships, Budapest, Hungary (35-39 age category)
7th European Triathlon Championships, Athlone, Ireland (35-39 age category)
1st British Aquathlon Championships (35-39 age category)
3rd World Duathlon Championships, Concord, North Carolina, USA (30-35 age category)
Larissa Davies: former Team GB Water Polo Captain and 2013 European Triathlon Championships Silver Medallist
Larissa and I became friends during our time of working together (as academic geographers). Indeed, for almost one decade, we shared an office together thus got to know each other’s quirks rather well! I very much admire Larissa as she holds qualities I really value: she’s principled and is willing to stick her head above the parapet to fight for such principles, she’s disciplined, and she has a heart of gold.
Larissa has always struck me as actually half-human, half-fish, so when she won Silver in her age category (40-44) in the 2013 European Triathlon Championships with a PHENOMENAL swim time, well, I wasn’t that surprised! Years of being in the pool with her water polo exploits have stood Larissa in excellent stead when it comes to her new triathlon adventures. Just to spell out how phenomenal Larissa’s swim leg was in the Championships, mull over this:
Larissa 00:21:47 / Woman in her age category who got Gold 00:24:32 / Man in her age category who got Gold 00:22:42 / Only one man out of the entire field in her age category was anywhere near comparable in speed … Staggering.
I am thinking, this is the start of something very exciting, and Anaemic On A Bike is stoked with enthusiasm and anticipation! Anaemic On A Bike is also thinking: Helen, Larissa, am I the common denominator? 😉
Colin Anderson: my everyday cycling hero
In my time of knowing Colin, he’s got into cycling and in a big way. He’s become an accomplished touring cyclist and has written some really entertaining and informative articles on his various European escapades on the website Crazy Guy On A Bike – check them out: http://www.crazyguyonabike.com/ColinAnderson
What’s more, he has competed in the Caledonian Etape Sportive (81 miles, ascent 1949m), and in 2013 improved his personal best time by about 30 minutes – coming in at 5:22:35 (M40-44)! Right now he is setting his sights on the Robert Millar King of the Mountains Sportive.
The thing about Colin is this, he’s a totally modest guy. What’s more, he’s really kind and generous hearted, a bit shy and very funny, and sound politically. I remember that the first year he rode a mammoth endurance event, he did so (courageously, I think) in memory of his best friend. He’s kept going ever since. In sum, Colin Anderson is an exceptional and very likeable MAMIL, he’s totally inspiring, and he’s a well-earnt place in my Hall of Fame. Avanti!
Jol “Speedy-legs” Miskin: my everyday running hero
Aged 59, Jol ran the 2013 Sheffield Half Marathon in 1:38:23 (M55). Now, until recently, Anaemic On A Bike knew very little about running. I knew Jol was a competent runner and that he set his standards high, but it was only when I spread the news of Jol’s time to running friends of mine that the penny dropped (as jaws dropped): 1:38:23! I have since discovered that Jol ran the Sheffield Marathon back in 1984 in 2:57… yes, impressive!
All that said, Jol’s been a source of motivation for me well before I learnt how speedy he actually was. Unbeknown to him, Jol has on key occasions triggered my desire to push myself to physical extremes that I would never have otherwise considered. Why? Because of my sibling-esq rivalry with him driven by our similarities: notably, our excess nervy energy and our alpha barks that disguise our softer sides! So, when Jol recalled his gruelling feat of endurance on an Alpetastic bike ride in the Peak District (Chris’s Spin 2011), the seed was firmly sown that I too would accomplish it. When Jol’s partner Karen told me that he must have big lungs as he’s run up the infamous Hagg Hill in Sheffield, again, that was that, I would cycle up it and with no oxygen break. 🙂
Most importantly, Jol enters my Hall of Fame for his social and political quality. In all my time of knowing him, my first impression has been the unwavering one. Jol’s stellar because he’s a man of integrity, or perhaps more accurately, a man who endeavours towards integrity. Respect.
Finally, I am hoping that when I’m 60 and Jol’s 83 that I might be able to beat him in a jog round the block.