From 100m in sub-10 seconds on the track to 250m an hour in the snow, Dwain Chambers reflects on his latest charity challenge – climbing Mont Blanc
Many athletes have metaphorical mountains to climb during their sporting careers, but not all of them take it upon themselves to clip on the crampons and do it for real.
From sprinting 100m in a 9.97 second best on the track to trudging at a pace of 250m an hour in the snow, Dwain Chambers has been far removed from his comfort zone in undertaking his most recent charity challenge – climbing Mont Blanc in aid of the charity Teens Unite, which helps teenagers cope with cancer and other serious illnesses.
Chambers’ sporting career has had its fair share of ups and downs, but scaling the 16,000ft Mont Blanc certainly took him physically further up than he’d ever gone before and the mental impact the climb had on the 35-year-old was something of a rollercoaster ride too.
It was a slightly different way to spend the post-season period, but, Chambers admits, it actually provided the perfect opportunity for reflection, coming at the end of a year which saw the Belgrave Harrier battle with a back injury to make it to the IAAF World Championships in Moscow, only to miss out on a spot in the 100m final and a medal in the 4x100m relay after the British team were disqualified for an illegal changeover.
“Travelling at 250 metres an hour, knee high in snow with fog, hail and a couple of storms all at between 3500 and 4800 metres above sea level was a little different to what I am used to,” says Chambers, reflecting on the mountainous challenge which ended on Monday. “It’s quite a good time to think actually,” he adds, “you have plenty of time to do that.”
Having trained in Chamonix in the shadow of Mont Blanc for the past two years, it is a place with which Chambers feels he has a real connection. There were many times, he admits, when he wondered what it would be like to climb it. So that’s what he did.
Earlier this year Chambers for Sport, a sporting project created by Chambers, organised a trip with Teens Unite for nine young people to go to Chamonix for a week of outward bound activities.
“We received some incredible messages back from the teens during their time in Chamonix,” explains Chambers. “The purpose of my climb last weekend was to raise awareness and some money for the charity to make it possible for some more teens to go out to Chamonix next year.”
Having spent almost two decades being a sprinter, Chambers admits this challenge was up there with what have been some of his hardest moments.
“This was as tough as anything I have had to endure both mentally and physically,” he told AW. “From a physical standpoint the altitude played havoc on my body. Being placed at 3500 metres above sea level made it very difficult to breath. With the added degree of negotiating the conditions of deep snow, ice, fog and hail this amounted to a situation much harder than I expected.
“Mentally it was extremely hard,” he adds. “On the first day I was literally taking it 10 steps at a time thinking ‘when I get to 10 I will tell Fabio (his guide from Dream Guides) that I’ve had enough’, but I would get to step nine and think ‘just another 10 steps’. This went on for hours and I then realised that it would take me longer to get home than to the mountain hut, so I just carried on.
“The only things that got me through was knowing the determination and inspiration of the teens and the support of my guide Fabio,” he continues before highlighting the story of Bola, one teenager who was determined to get well enough to attend a training day with the sprinter in 2012 but passed away a short time before the climb. ”Without Fabio and all the team at Dream Guides in Chamonix I would not have got the job done.
“At the moment I am still recovering from last weekend, but I like to challenge myself,” says Chambers, considering further charity challenges in the future. “There are other things I would like to do in the off season.”
And there’s that mention of the ‘off season’ indicating that he’s expecting a few more of those yet. It’s not quite time to hang up the spikes.
“I have more enthusiasm and determination than I have ever had before,” Chambers insists. “I am fortunate that I have a number of open doors that were previously not open to me. I will be training hard to be competitive at all the major championships next year.
“There are some very talented young sprinters that have emerged this year and I will have to be at my best to compete with them,” he adds. “I will start my preparation for the World Indoors in three weeks and my intention will be to compete for a medal in all the major championships next year.”
So far Chambers has raised over £1000 for Teens Unite via his fundraising page justgiving.com/dwainchambers.