A Life Without Limits, by Chrissie Wellington

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The Independent Culture

For an accident-prone "normal girl from Norfolk" who didn't run a serious race until she was 25, Chrissie Wellington has done pretty well for herself. A multiple world champion and record-holder, she remained unbeaten in 13 straight races at her chosen event, the Ironman triathlon, before her retirement in December.

And what a fiendish event it is – a 2.4-mile swim followed by a 112-mile bike ride, topped off with a marathon. Wellington's account of how she graduated from entering her first marathon on a whim in 2002 to the Ironman – surely Ironwoman would be more apt – title five years later is inspirational in the truest sense, because she feels strongly that sport can make ordinary people do extraordinary things.

She was helped/bullied on her way by a tyrannical coach with a chequered past but was obviously deeply competitive by nature, and her accounts of the more brutal aspects of Ironman are not for the squeamish; if a competitor was illegally slipstreaming her in the cycling phase, for instance, she would let fly an airborne stream of pee to make them back off.

Despite receiving an MBE in 2010, Wellington has yet to receive all the recognition she undoubtedly merits. On the evidence here, she deserves to be at least as famous as her ducal namesake.

Published in paperback by Constable, £8.99