My interest in running, cycling, swimming and participating in sport in general, was sparked back in 2000 by a New Year’s resolution to mark the new millennium. It all started with me signing up for my first Half Marathon. But as a child, no-one would have imagined how my more recent sporting glories would have come about.
At school, I was hampered by poor eyesight that meant that any contact based team games were a nightmare, as I couldn’t wear my glasses. A childhood operation to correct an eye squint meant that I could never use contact lenses. So with limited hand-eye co-ordination, I am afraid that I was always the last one to be picked for team games. As a teenager I did get into hiking through the Venture Scouts and participating in things the Duke of Edinburgh’s challenge, so there was some untapped potential to build upon in later life.
Fast forward to January 2000, and my sporting career was launched. Within three short months, I had progressed from 10k races up to 13 miles, completing the Reading Half Marathon in a very respectable 1h 45 minutes.
Over a celebratory dinner that night with the family, my wife Louise asked me what was next? Well the ideas soon flowed. Within two years I had completed my first full marathon at a local event in Abingdon – proving to myself that I was fitter at 40 than I was aged 30 – and repeated that distance again in my first European race in Paris in the spring of 2004.
By this stage I was using the local gym for cross-training – and was really getting into group based exercise with weekly Body Pump and Circuits classes. Ten years on and these classes still form part of my weekly training routine – the instructors and camaraderie with my gym buddies help keep me motivated!
However, I needed a new challenge – and the sport that I found was triathlon. The first thing I liked was the variety in training; and secondly was learning new skills. When I started triathlon my swimming was a serene breaststroke; so I basically had to relearn how to swim front crawl and overcome a childhood fear of putting my head in the water. So as you can imagine, open water swimming (in a cold and murky lake) was quite an obstacle for me!
Given that I train much more effectively when part of a group, I soon joined Thames Valley Triathletes (TVT) which has given my sporting career a whole new lease of life. I am a Level 1 coach, and helped setup the junior section a few years back when my kids were interested in participating in the sport. I now lead a weekly cycle group, which is great discipline to get me out whatever the weather and has been very motivational to help like-minded people realise their own sporting dreams.
So with all this support network in place, it is really no surprise that I have progressed from sprint distance to Olympic distance, and then in 2010 (a few months after the Dallaglio cycle slam) to complete my first Half Ironman. For those not familiar with the triathlon disciplines, that is a 1.2 mile swim; followed by a 56 mile cycle ride; and then a Half Marathon. So in ten years, I had progressed gradually and steadily to realise my full sporting potential.
The point of my story, and one of the reasons for starting my blog, is that I believe that we all have it in us to be active – and therefore keep fit and healthy – it is just a question of finding the right opportunity. And don’t ever let age put you off. Last year, at 49, TVT awarded me the most improved male triathlete in the club for my performance at the Antwerp Half Ironman event.
So do I think I can rise to the challenge of cycling nearly 600km over 4 days of the Dallaglio Flintoff cycle challenge – absolutely!