On Monday, Jan. 16 Chrissie Wellington sent shockwaves throughout the triathlon world with the announcement that she would be taking a year away from Ironman racing. The four-time Ironman world champion posted the news on her blog, Chrissiewellington.org, and expressed a desire to pursue other opportunities. Wellington took time to chat with us about those opportunities, how she came to the decision and what the future will hold.
Triathlete.com: Walking away from Ironman for this year must have been a big decision. How did you come to this decision?
Wellington: Making the decision to have a sabbatical was reminiscent of the time in 2006 when I was deliberating whether or not to leave my job working for the government to embark on an unknown path as a professional triathlete. Although having such choices is a blessing, making these decisions is never easy. But now, as then, I simply try to follow my gut instinct and do what I feel is right deep in my heart. But yes, you’re right…it was a HUGE decision, and one that I deliberated long and hard over.
I feel so incredibly fortunate and grateful to have found a sport that I love; to have had the chance to actually make that passion my career; to have continually defied what I thought was possible; to have made so many great friends; to have travelled the world, and of course to have developed a platform on which I can now build.
But I believe that racing cannot always be the axis around which my life revolves. It should not be an end in itself—never the be all and end all of my life. Never define me. It is just one branch on a tree that I hope is as big, rich and varied as I can possibly make it. I want to inject some variety back into my life, some balance and some spontaneity. I want to be freer to explore and seize other opportunities. I would like to spend more time in the UK, and with my family and my friends; to work more closely with my chosen charities, to attend different races around the world, to work with my sponsors, and to try and inspire as many people as possible. Yes, I could do this whilst training and racing full time, but not to the extent and with the energy and passion that I feel is necessary.
Triathlete.com: How have those around you, including Dave Scott and your friends and family, reacted to your choice?
Wellington: Because it was an incredibly difficult decision to make, I did seek the counsel of various trusted people including Dave, my manager Ben, as well as close friends and family beforehand. Of course, Dave was incredibly understanding and helpful. His first hand experiences have meant that he can empathise with how I am feeling, and advise me on all the possible options, including the related emotional and physical factors that come into play.
Everyone that knows me well, including Dave, understands my craving for new challenges. Triathlon is an important and wonderful part of my life, and always will be. But like I said, I also need to give myself the chance to seize other opportunities, and truly celebrate everything I have managed to achieve in this great sport, without always looking to the next sporting goal. It’s not the end, merely the opening of a new chapter, and all my friends and family, as well as my sponsors, have been incredibly supportive, positive and encouraging.
Triathlete.com: How are you feeling—both physically and emotionally—after competing injured at the 2011 Ironman World Championship race?
Wellington: I am still suffering some physical side effects, but nothing major—only an ankle that doesn’t seem to want to be a normal size! The big red scars on my legs are still pretty horrendous, but they are war wounds I carry with pride!
In terms of emotions, Kona 2011 was the most gratifying, satisfying and proudest moment of my career. I dug to the very depths of my soul and truly pushed beyond any limit I thought existed. It was the hard-fought race I have always dreamed of, and I feel that maybe at this race I proved to myself, and others, that I really was worthy of being called a champion.