Chrissie Wellington didn't even realize that she was athletic until her early 20's. Now, at 33, she's a globally recognized endurance athlete. Stories like this should make you wonder if you are also secretly Superman.
Wellington began her athletic career by running the London Marathon in 2001, which she finished in a little over three hours and with surprisngly little pain. (For the unfamiliar, it's considered quite impressive to finish a debut marathon in under 4 hours and marathons generally hurt a fair amount, so reading of her accomplishment conjures residual twinges of empathetic hip and knee discomfort and that throbbing feeling of not being able to stand up once one sits down afterward. But, I digress. The point here is that she's fucking fast.)
A few months later, Wellington was hit by a car and couldn't run for four months, opting instead to take up lower-impact swimming. A coach spotted her training and asked if she'd ever considered competing in triathlons, and after a rocky debut, she started winning them, and then she started competing in Ironman races, eventually hiring a world class (but extremely controversial) coach to bring her up to speed.
Ironman triathlons take a special sort of insanity to complete, let alone win. They consist of a 3.8 km swim, followed by a 180 km bike ride, followed by a full marathon, which is 42 km. They're crazy, absolutely crazy, and Chrissie Wellington started competing in them on a whim, and then she started winning them.
During her debut Ironman world championships, she blew past the field and won. She also won in 2008 and 2009, but couldn't compete this year due to falling ill. What a slacker.
To maintain her body during her intense training, she has to consume 5,000 calories per day. She also freely admits to vacating her bowels and bladder while competing for a race, to not caring that her boyfriend sees her covered with dried salt after training. She admits she has no time for fun, for anything except training.
Pushing one's body to the physical limit isn't for everyone, and most human beings are incapable of such a feat (and many others see no appeal in shitting oneself in Hawaii), but Wellington serves as a great example of someone who became active as an adult and has proven capable of excelling athletically. Maybe there isn't an Ironman in your future, and maybe there isn't even a 10K, but you never know until you strap on a pair of running shoes and try.
Chrissie Wellington: The Iron Lady [The Guardian]