New Zealand Law Society - Endurance sport challenges for retired soccer star

Endurance sport challenges for retired soccer star

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When Football Fern Sarah Gibbs retired from soccer she didn't sit back and relax – she plunged straight into tough endurance sport, triathlons and marathons.

"I've done seven marathons and two Ironman triathlons in New Zealand … A lot of what I do outside work is sports related training…"

"I love getting off the grid for the 'green light'," says Sarah, who was recently made a senior associate at Hesketh Henry in Auckland.

Sarah Clare (Sarah) Gibbs
Entry to law
Graduated BCom from Auckland University and LLB from Waikato University in 2006. Admitted 2007. 
Senior associate in corporate and commercial team at Hesketh Henry, Auckland. 
Speciality area
Corporate and commercial law.

The 'green light' includes bush and beach walks, hiking and tough endurance challenges, which she shares with her physiotherapist partner Celia.

"Celia and I are basically exactly the same in physical ability and we are big training buddies … we both get out there … we compete and do everything together, including our second Ironman…"

Sarah alternated between left back and left wing for the Football Ferns between 2004 and 2008, when the team was ranked 20th in the world.

"My main weakness in soccer was pace … I could not go fast but I could go for a long time.

"I was looking for something to throw myself into after retiring from soccer and endurance sport is hard going and ideal … I have always been interested in a tough challenge…

"It takes me 12 hours to do an Ironman triathlon with a 4km swim, 180km bike ride and a marathon…Winners do it in about eight a half hours…

"I'm not into social sports but am happy to go for a walk and have a coffee at weekends … At the moment I'm having a quieter year.

"On endurance stuff the idea is to clear your head after a hard week at work … Law is intense so it is good to get out in the bush, listening to birds, smelling the smells and taking in the views…

"Mornings are important to get things done and working out. I'm up at 5.30 going to boot camp or running up Mt Albert before work…"

Sarah and Celia haven't tackled the Coast to Coast, which Sarah describes as "a whole other logistical nightmare".

"It's the location (across the South Island), includes kayaking and is very expensive to compete – about $10,000 on the cheap…"

The couple pack their gear into Sarah's 2004 Toyota Caldina wagon – "not your usual lawyer's VW Golf and I'm on a shoestring" – and head off whenever they can, looking forward to a camping holiday at Okiwi Bay, between Blenheim and Nelson.

Their last holiday was four days walking the 70km Queen Charlotte track with Celia's mum and her partner.

What relaxation there is in her challenging life is taken up with food, wine, films non-fiction reading and occasionally chilling out in Queenstown.

"The last film I saw was 2015 American crime thriller Sicario, about a hitman and Mexican drug cartels … And I'm looking forward to seeing Daniel Craig in Spectre, the 24th James Bond film.

"I've just finished the classic 1930s Dale Carnegie book How to Win Friends and Influence People, which is highly recommended…

"And I'm reading Malcolm Gladwell's second book Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.

"I like reading about sports people and women … I recently read about New Zealand-born Nancy Wake, the Special Operations Executive agent known as the White Mouse…

"Hers is a pretty phenomenal story and her contribution was not recognised until some time after the war…

"I'm not musical but I listen to it...

"I'm into the This Town series on TV about small town New Zealand and the US comedy drama Orange is the New Black"...

"And I have a four year old moggie cat called Dusty … Nothing fancy…"

With an accountant father, accounts assistant mother and no other lawyers in the family, Sarah – like many lawyers - was attracted to law by a strong sense of justice and fairness.

"Being a sports person and competitive I like the adversarial nature of law and doing something for the underdog…

 "At high school I did a careers questionnaire on the computer and it came back with suggested careers as a lawyer, police officer or prison guard…

"I considered applying to the police when I was thinking if I should do law…

"If I wasn't a lawyer I would probably want to be a detective, or join the army … I thought I would go alright in army but it can be dangerous…

"I would encourage people to study law - whether they practice or not – because the law degree is a very valuable way into a rewarding career and can open a lot of doors.

"Law and being a lawyer has instant credibility…"

Jock Anderson has been writing and commenting on New Zealand lawyers and New Zealand's courts for most of his career in journalism. Contact Jock at

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