Beryl Burton was a remarkable athlete, gaining perhaps one of the most impressive list of national championships acquired in any sport. Over a period spanning more than a quarter of a century, Beryl Burton won 74 National Championships, 50 Competition Records and 25 consecutive BBAR (Best British allrounder – 50, 100 miles and 12 hour). Beryl was also world champion on 7 occasions. (she would undoubtedly have won more titles if the women had a time trial championship. She won in the road race and pursuit title.)
From classic time trial photos
12 Hour Time Trial Record
In 1967, Beryl Burton was in great form and she entered the Otley CC 12 Hour Time trial. In those days, men and women weren’t allowed to race together. So to separate them, Beryl Burton started two minutes (as opposed to one minute) behind the fastest man – Mike Mcnamara. It was a ridiculous set up – a 1 minute gap between the mens and womens race provided the legal distinction; but, it gave Beryl a real carrot to chase – a realistic chance to overtake the fastest male time triallist For Mike it was hardly a good situation; he had everything to lose and not much to gain. If he lost to a women, it would do him no favours. On the other hand, if Beryl failed to beat Mike, no harm, after all she was a women and who could expect a women to beat a man?
Anyway, the race began and after 156 miles, the 2 minute gap was the same. But on 236 miles, Beryl had finally caught up with Mike, as she passed him she casually asked Mike,
‘would you like a liquorice allsort?
Mike, in gentlemanly, fashion replied ‘Ta, love’ and promptly ate the sweet as the great female cyclist Beryl Burton swept past.
At the end of the 12 hour race Mike Mcnamara had beaten the 9 year old 12 hour record, finishing with 276.52 miles. However, his record beating ride, was completely overshadowed by Beryl’s ride which left her with a total of 277.52 miles, the first time any male road cycling record had been held by a women.
By the way, Beryl was not a full time cyclists, she gained little in the way of sponsorship and had to work full time as well as bringing up a daughter Denise. At one time Beryl worked as a rhubarb picker for a club mate of Morley CC.
Berly Burton died aged 58 in a cycling accident. There is a memorial garden to her in her home town of Morley, near Leeds.