Be the Change - Looking Beyond Boundaries

At the second Ultra High-Performing Women: Lessons from Sport for Business event run by Meyler-Campbell and Crelos, attendees heard from two inspirational women, four times World Ironman champion Chrissie Wellington and Rimla Akhtar, chair of the Muslim women’s sport Foundation and recently elected as the first Muslim women to the FA Council.

Chrissie’s first foray in to endurance sport was competing in the London Marathon in 2002 where she achieved the impressive time of 3 hours and 8 minutes. A friend then suggested she took up Triathlon and she trained for the cycling, while following her passion for international development working for an NGO in Nepal, advising on water and sanitation projects.

On her return to the UK Chrissie entered her first triathlon, but borrowed a wetsuit from a friend and had to be rescued from the lake when she sunk like a stone as her overly large wetsuit took on water!

At the age of 29 Chrissie took the huge decision of becoming a professional athlete, but this decision was guided by her belief that “the biggest failure is the failure not to try something”. She ran her first ironman in Korea, winning the race and qualifying for the World Championships in Hawaii. With just six weeks to prepare for the huge event, Chrissie’s aim was to do her very best and get in to the top ten. She won and went on to defend her title in 2008, 2009 and after pulling out of the race the night before the 2010 competition, regained her title in 2011.

Chrissie discussed a number of “silver bullets” that helped her achieve such amazing success including; find your passion in life, set a goal that is stretching enough to make you nervous, share your journey with others and take a holistic approach to training and competing by focusing on anything that might give you a small gain. She also believes that “our mind is your most powerful weapon” and discussed a number of tools including visualisation, positive affirmation and developing your own personal mantra.

Chrissie believes that real success is not about trophies and titles, but about the legacy that having a voice and a platform can bring. She is now focused on countering the trend of sedentary behaviour that we see in children in the UK and has been a driving force behind the establishment of Junior Park run, a weekly 2 kilometre running event for 4 to 14 year olds.1

She is also part of the team that petitioned and were successful in introducing a women’s race to the Tour De France. La Course on the 27th July will be run a few hours before the men’s peloton arrives in Paris and the world's elite women cyclists will race the circuit in the historic heart of the city before fighting out a final sprint at the finish line on the Champs-Elysées.2

At the start of her sporting journey Chrissie never believed that she would become a four times Ironman Champion. “I defied what I thought was possible. That to me was the silver bullet”.

Rimla started by discussing some of the common myths around Muslim women and sport, particularly that Muslim women don’t want to do sport and that Islam doesn’t allow women to be involved in sport. Islam advocates taking responsibility for one’s body and many Muslim women do want to do sport – they just want to do it in the way that works for them.

A key issue is a lack of support from their families and Rimla told the story of a Muslim girl who, without telling her family, would travel every weekend from Leeds to London to play in a football team.

Rimla has always held the view that she needs to work with the Muslim community and create change from within and created a “no excuses policy” whereby she and others would work to eliminate any of the excuses given for not doing sport, such as enabling women only environments and allowing flexibility over dress. Rimla also works with the sports industry to communicate the positive messages of Muslim women’s sport, suggesting that the industry might like to join in the success of their journey, rather than standing on the side lines.

Rimla’s four key tips for creating change were;

The event ended by attendees discussing some of their “silver bullets” from the presentations, which included the importance of positive role-models that are not too successful to be easily relatable and the importance of remaining authentic to oneself, creating your own standards and frameworks, even when others are trying to push their expectations upon you.

The third and final event in this series will take place on 9th September, featuring Kate Richardson-Walsh, field hockey captain for GB. In an intimate and energising format she will share her insights into how successful performance raising methods from sport can be transferred in to the business world. Places are limited, so please call the Meyler Campbell office on 020 8460 4790 to reserve your place. The booking fee per workshop is £175 plus VAT.