Sports editor Graham Smyth believes everyone should try triathlon.
Here are his seven reasons why you should give the multi-discipline sport a go.
1: It’s a healthy addiction
The second question that springs to mind upon crossing the finish line at a triathlon, after ‘what was my time?’ is ‘when is the next one?’
It’s a serious addiction, but entirely legal and beneficial for your health.
To race you have to train, and the training involves cardiovascular exercise but with an end goal in mind – the race. It’s purposeful and functional.
I did my first sprint race in 2013, raced twice in 2014 and three times in 2015. If money and time were no object, I’d race throughout the summer.
2: Anyone can try it
Look around at the start of any amateur sprint triathlon, and you’ll see people of all shapes and sizes.
Can’t swim frontcrawl? Swim breaststroke then. Can’t swim at all? Learn. Haven’t got a bike? Borrow one. Can’t run 5km? Most local athletics clubs hold ‘couch to 5k’ courses that increase your running distance in a gentle and steady progression.
I couldn’t swim until I began training for a triathlon, so I got lessons. I borrowed a bike. And I could just about run 5km in half an hour.
As for all other excuses, I’ll point you to Worksop youngster Bailey Matthews who has cerebral palsy
3: We’re all in this together
Whether you’re queing at registration, racking your back or standing in your wave ready to jump into the pool, you’ll find someone to talk to. Everyone loves to talk triathlon. The races they’ve done, previous experience of this event, nerves, the weather - it’s all up for discussion. And after six triathlons I’m yet to find a fellow triathlete who wasn’t encouraging. Maybe I’m just lucky, or maybe triathlon is scientifically proven to make you a happier human. Factor in applause from spectators and it’s a genuinely lovely atmosphere.
4: There’s always something to work on
Swim stroke, bilateral breathing, tumble turns, drafting, transition, moving dismounts - there’s a laundry list of things you can be working on, other than just getting fit. There are things that will help knock serious time off your personal best, and things that will help you sharpen up by mere seconds. But when you’re starting out, the constant progression, personal best runs, Strava records on your bike rides and increased swim distances are motivational. And once you’ve conquered a sprint race, you can try an Olympic. Then there’s a half Ironman, and after that a full Ironman. A triathlete’s work is never done.
5: Becoming a lion
It doesn’t matter if you’re in the water, on the bike or out on the run course, there will almost always be other triathletes to hunt down and pass. Sometimes it can be a distraction, but other times you’ll find those little individual battles help both the hunter and the hunted. At Ripon Olympic Distance Triathlon there was a gent who kept trading places with me on the 10k run section, and in a tough part of the course the race-within-a-race kept me going. At Southwell, in the Last Minute Tri, an older triathlete ran effortlessly alongside me, chatting away. As friendly and pleasant as he was, conversation was the last thing on my mind, so I upped the pace to get away from him, and ended up with a big PB. Cheers, old dude. Overtaking people isn’t something you’d visibly or audibly celebrate, because that would be crass – but it does feel great.
6: It doesn’t have to cost the earth
It’s possible to spend a shameful amount of money on your new hobby. It’s fun to walk around the elite end of the transition area and estimate how much money has been spent on fancy bikes. You can buy expensive supplements, brand name running shoes and enough lycra to clothe an elephant. Alternatively, you can borrow a bike or get a cheap one on Gumtree, buy a triathlon suit from a special ALDI sale and fuel your training on tins of tuna. There’s no need to hire a personal trainer, just get out on the Queen’s highway and track your progress on a free app like Strava.
7: Dine out on the accomplishment
For the narcissists among us, when it comes to the greater level of satisfaction, it’s a toss up between crossing the line and telling all your friends about your triathlon performance. For everyone else, just getting to the finish, or setting new personal best brings enough joy. But there’s no doubting it’s a real achievement to get yourself through a swim, bike, run race. And it’s something most people won’t tackle in their lifetime. But everyone should.