Former rowing world champion and double Olympic gold medallist James Cracknell tells KATE WILLIAMS why he chose Devon for his family holiday home and about his involvement in the Great West Run
The majority of people probably wouldn’t be surprised that James Cracknell OBE is heavily involved in the upcoming Great West Run, but they might be to learn of his deep love for our county.
The former rowing world champion and Olympic gold medallist is an inspiring sports fanatic, athlete and adventurer as well as an ambassador for fighting obesity with physical activity.
Based in London with his wife, TV presenter Beverley Turner, and their three children – a son, Croyde, and two daughters, Kiki and Trixie – James also has a holiday home in North Devon, a place which is very close to his heart. With two Olympic gold medals and six world championship titles to his name, the former rower has taken on a number of adventures, including the gruelling Amundsen Omega3 South Pole Race, The Race across the Atlantic and, more recently, crossing the Empty Quarter in the Arabian Desert on camelback – all with friend Ben Fogle. In 2010, whilst racing to cycle, run, row and swim from Los Angeles to New York in a record 18 days, James was struck by a petrol tanker from behind when cycling through Arizona.
‘The time we spend in Devon together, we experience together rather than just happening to be in the same place’
Suffering a brain injury, James has attributed his survival to the fact he was wearing a helmet and is now vice-president of charity Headway, advocating the use of cycling helmets.
But whenever he gets a small break in the hectic schedule of his career, James loves nothing more than to bring his family to the shores of North Devon, to share his admiration for the West Country with his loved ones.
He says: “We love the outdoor environment and in Devon you get both the coast and the amazing national parks.
“I actually spent a lot of time in Cornwall as a lad, but getting to
Devon with the kids, especially for a long weekend, is much easier.”
So why did he choose Croyde to purchase a holiday home?
“I went surfing there as a teenager and loved the attitude and atmosphere of the place. I still do.”
James feels as though his family spend real quality time together when they are in Devon.
He explains: “It is the outdoor nature of the place. The time we spend in Devon together, we experience together rather than just happening to be in the same place. So, a long weekend actually feels more like a proper break.
“We don’t get to visit as much as we would like to as the kids are at school, so there isn’t the same freedom. But let’s face it, who gets to go on holiday as often as they’d like?
“Anybody with three kids will say there’s not that much downtime! But I love The Thatch in Croyde Bay and The Rock in Georgeham.”
James also trains for marathons and takes part in several races across the UK but is a part-owner of Exeter’s Great West Run, making it a principal event in his calendar.
He says: “It’s vital to the event, our staff and the company that it’s a success.
“On a personal level, I love running and love running in different locations, urban and rural as well as different parts of the country.
“I believe that being physically active helps us make the most of our lives, our kids’ lives and our grandkids’ lives.
“To do that we need to build exercise into our lives so it becomes a habit and to initiate that we need a goal – and a fun one – which the Great West Run is.”
The Olympian, who won gold in both the 2000 Sydney Olympic Games, alongside Steve Redgrave, and the 2004 Athens Olympic Games, has a message for people in Exeter and Devon considering taking part in the run.
He says: “You can do it! It’s Devon’s biggest running event and always a brilliant atmosphere.
“Be there on the start line ready to enjoy it.” thegreatwestrun.co.uk