Hill-climber, mountain runner, road racer, Zwift supremo, scientist, sheep farmer: The many talents of Mary Wilkinson

CW meets the astonishingly multi-talented former world-class runner turned top-flight cyclist

Mary Wilkinson portrait
(Image credit: Andy Jones)

Mary Wilkinson is a natural. Rewind 25 years and a picture emerges of a sporty kid who was good at just about everything. “I was pretty talented in team sports: netball, hockey, football,” she casually reels them off. “I played those to international junior level.” By her late-teens the sporting world was her oyster and she was looking forward to honing her netball at Loughborough University, but then tragedy struck: Wilkinson’s older brother Thomas was killed in a car crash aged just 19. 

“It left me with a desperate need for control, because other things – my brother’s death – had proved to be outside of my control,” Wilkinson reflects candidly on the trauma, 23 years on. “Food was something I could control, and that led to an eating disorder.” Although compulsive exercise is often bound up with disordered eating, Wilkinson believes that, in her case, running had a healing effect. “My desire was not to be thin, but for control, and in running there was a positive control that ultimately enabled me to see food as fuel.” 

Thank you for reading 20 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access

Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription

Join now for unlimited access

Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1

David Bradford
Features editor

David Bradford is features editor of Cycling Weekly (print edition). He has been writing and editing professionally for more than 15 years, and has published work in national newspapers and magazines including the Independent, the Guardian, the Times, the Irish Times, Vice.com and Runner’s World. Alongside his love of cycling, David is a long-distance runner with a marathon PB of two hours 28 minutes. Having been diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa (RP) in 2006, he also writes about sight loss and hosts the podcast Ways of Not Seeing.