When I was about 15, I quit my football club after eight seasons of service. I turned to golf, briefly flirted with snooker and seriously considered triathlon.
It’s always been an interest of mine rather than a burning passion. The three disciplines I’ve never excelled in any but can happily do all without collapsing in a complete wreck.
I’ve done 9 mile runs, cycled to Paris and to my knowledge, not drowned yet.
At university, my round the clock media commitments and casual cricket filled most of my time and the serious competitive nature of sports there meant I was never likely to succeed in joining the triathlon club.
That interest has never wained though and I’ve long been calling for the Brownlee brothers to be recognised at the BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards. The interest grew after listening to an intriguing radio documentary by Tom Fordyce, auntie’s chief sports writer, who followed the Brownlee brothers around for a week and you got an insight into their training.
After this weekend, that interest has turned into a full blown passion.
I was lucky enough to report at the Hever Castle Triathlon on Saturday morning and couldn’t help but be impressed with the sheer scale, organisation and warmth of the event. Granted the idyllic setting of Hever Castle and the fact it was the third biggest triathlon in the country may have given me a distorted picture of the events nationwide but they weren’t the most impressive factors about this grandiose event.
Amidst the fear, the trepidation, the nerves and the excitement on the start loggia, complete strangers were exchanging stories and experiences of triathlons gone by. Veterans were passing on tips to newbies. Newbies were seeking comfort in other newbies, who assured the other that they would finish and it wouldn’t be last. The ones that finished hung around to cheer others across the line, where they were greeted instantly with a medal, and all the fruit they could eat.
This friendly spirit is what most attracts me to the sport. The idea of competing in a sport against yourself, against each other, against the clock but at the same time retaining a very human element to it.
It’s part of the reason I like cricket so much. It’s an individual team sport. When I play, I go hell-for-leather, game-face, the works. I’ll try and intimidate batsmen, shout and stare to get the upper hand. I expect it and enjoy it when I get it back. At the end of the game, I’ll have a pint with the aggressors and laugh about it. It’s a serious sport that doesn’t take itself too seriously.
Triathlon, from what I saw, has that competitive edge but a lighter one too. I mean, I saw one lad cycling in shorts and t-shirt rather than the customary triathlon Lycra onesie. I saw a chap do the cycle on a standard mountain bike rather than a woven ribbon on carbon fibre of the elite, wheels thinner than the latest smartphones.
No matter what level, no matter what experience, it is a sport that is inclusive. And I want to be included.
I want it for the fitness benefits, for waking up in the morning or getting home at night and having that drive to achieve something, that goal to work towards. It’s something I’ve lacked since leaving the sporting haven of Loughborough. It’s something I want back.
So how feasible is it?
I have two main snags. First is time. Working 6-3ish every day (5-4:30 including the commute) doesn’t leave masses of time to train. Yes, it’s doable but it’s the drain it can have as we’ll. The second fear is cost. The average salary for a triathlon competitor is £50,000. Is it worth forking out £1,000+ for all the gear? What sort of stuff will I need? Where can I get it from?
At Hever Castle on Saturday, I twice promised live on air that I would be on the start line this time next year. I want to be.
My triathlon competition starts right here, right now.
The competition between my heart and my head.
Wednesday, 3rd October 2012