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A monster hurdle for Sally Gunnell and Gavin Hastings

Wednesday 21 July 2010

News image.

Sports heroes to take part in 2010 First Monster Challenge

Two of the UK’s most celebrated sporting icons, Sally Gunnell and Gavin Hastings, were today confirmed as the famous faces taking part in the 2010 First Monster Challenge, the 120km team relay duathlon around Loch Ness, on September 11.

The Loch Ness Monster was unavailable to assist in a launch event and so organisers FirstGroup, the UK’s largest bus and rail operator, approached Edinburgh Zoo to book a pre-historic monster of a different sort to launch the event. 

Olympic Gold Medal 400m hurdler, Sally Gunnell, put aside her fear of lizards to join Gavin Hastings in handling Smaug a 2ft long bearded dragon.  But Sally was more interested in the Zoo’s white’s tree frog Kermit which, like Sally, is keen on jumping and hurdling. The former World Record holder could also not resist spending some time with another champion jumper, one of the zoo’s five swamp wallabies (small kangaroos).

“Coming face to face with Smaug was a Challenge in itself,” said Sally.  “I don’t expect to be as nervous taking on the First Monster Challenge!

FirstGroup confirmed today that the event has already sold out. More than 1,000 competitors have signed up in teams of four to run and cycle around the shores of Loch Ness. However, First has released extra places, available from today, at

Sally added: “I’m looking forward to the event on September 11.  I’ve been training hard so hopefully I won’t let my team mates down.  The main aim of the event is to raise money for good causes and in particular First’s charity partner, Save the Children.  More than £170,000 was raised in 2009 – I hope we can beat that total.”

Gavin Hastings is a veteran of Britain’s most famous duathlon.  “I will take on the Monster for the third time on September 11 and, as always, my aim is to get round in one piece,” said the Scottish rugby legend.  “For an event of this nature to sell out year on year demonstrates just how enjoyable it is -  the team spirit, the views, the organisation and the course itself are first class.  It has become one of the highlights of my year.”

Sir Moir Lockhead, Chief Executive of FirstGroup said: “The event actually sold out this year before we had a chance to publicly launch it!  This event has grown remarkably well since the inaugural Monster in 2007 and we couldn’t be more pleased with its success.

“I’m delighted that Gavin Hastings is again part of the event – he is immensely popular with the competitors and it’s fantastic to have Olympic, World and Commonwealth Gold Medal winner Sally Gunnell join us for the first time.  Monster 2010 promises to be another great event.”

FirstGroup has released spaces for 10 extra teams (40 competitors) for the September 11 event.  To sign up for the First Monster Challenge or for more information, log on to

FirstGroup is also catering for the UK’s fittest athletes.  The ‘First Iron Monster Challenge’ which sees competitors attempt the entire 120km course (40km running and 80km cycling) solo, is also a sell out with 50 finely tuned athletes signed up for this event.

The First Monster Challenge, which has been officially accredited by the British Triathlon Foundation, consists of teams of four.  Each competitor is required to complete two legs of the eight-legged event – one 10km run and one 20km cycle. 

Sally Gunnell
• Sally Gunnell OBE has a special place in the nation’s hearts as one of Britain’s most popular female sports stars. She is the only woman ever to hold four major track titles concurrently – Olympic, World, European and Commonwealth.
• Following her retirement from international athletics, Sally developed a new career as a television presenter and motivational speaker. She has written four books on fitness, health, self-fulfilment and well-being. She is married to Jon and is mum to three young sons; Finley, Luca and Marley.
• Athletics Career - Key Highlights:
      1986 Commonwealth Games, 100m Hurdles, Gold Medal
      1990 Commonwealth Games, 400m Hurdles, Gold Medal
      1992 Olympic Games, 400m Hurdles, Gold Medal
      1992 Olympic Games, 4x400m Relay, Bronze Medal
      1993 World Championships Games, 400m Hurdles, Gold Medal & new World Record
      1994 Commonwealth Games, 400m Hurdles, Gold Medal

Gavin Hastings
• Gavin Hastings OBE was born in 1962 in Edinburgh and is a former Scottish Rugby Union player. He has played for Watsonians, Cambridge University, Scotland and the British and Irish Lions.  He was one of the outstanding rugby union players of his generation, winning 61 caps for Scotland, 20 of which as captain.
• He played fullback, and captained the Lions on the tour to New Zealand in 1993. Until his record was overtaken in 2008, Hastings was the all-time record points scorer in the Scottish national rugby union team, with 667 points in test matches. He remains the all-time record points scorer for the British and Irish Lions (in test matches) with 66, the all time record points scorer for Watsonians with 1203, and until 2007 was the all time record points scorer for an individual player in the Rugby World Cup with 227 points. He also scored 17 tries for Scotland, to place him third on Scotland's all time list on his retirement. He has appeared 10 times for the Barbarians.

• Bearded Dragon Information
Bearded dragons are lizards found in open woodlands of Australia. Their characteristics include spiny scales arranged in rows and clusters. These are found on the throat, which can be expanded when threatened, and at the back of the head. On average they live for between 10–20 years, although some have been known to live longer.

• White’s Tree Frog information
White’s tree frogs are the most common type of tree frogs to be kept as pets. They come in a range of colours from bright green, to olive green and even to shades of blue, but they also have the ability to change colour in reaction to their mood and surroundings. The average lifespan of the frog in captivity, about sixteen years and is long in comparison with most frogs. It is a species native to Australia and New Guinea.

Picture caption: Gavin Hastings and Sally Gunnell meet Smaug, a 2ft long bearded dragon - all three were launching FirstGroup's duathlon event - The First Monster Challenge.

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