CLUB OF THE WEEK: Swindon Triathlon Club
For most the idea of doing anything, besides laying on a sun-baked lounger and ordering beverage, after a swim is beyond comprehension. But a large group of people choose to then strap themselves to bicycle and power themselves over several miles, before wrapping up the unholy trinity with a run for good measure.
It’s called triathlon. Competitors swim, bike and run over varying distances according to the class of the race ranging from super sprint distance comprising a 400m swim, 10km cycle and 2.5km run to the punishing Ironman, which starts with a 3.8km swim, moves to a 180km cycle and before capping with a full marathon run.
The sport itself is very young, the first event didn’t take place until September 1974 and didn’t reach these shores for nine further years, much more than a century after our national sport.
But unlike football, which became a recognised Olympic sport in 1990 more than a century after formation, triathlon has quickly become part of the sporting conscious, welcomed into the Olympics in Sydney, less than 30 years after invention.
In Britain, triathlon has grown exponentially - according to the British Triathlon Federation figures, since 2004, participation has tripled. The successes of reigning World champion Non Stanford and the Olympic success of the Brownlee brothers have ensured that those buoyed numbers haven’t dropped.
It’s a pattern that has been noted locally by Swindon Triathlon Club. Club Chair Chris Fox says: “I got involved around 2009 and I’ve seen an increase in the numbers of members in my time here.
“The British teams have been very successful, both men and women, over the last few years and the sport has been well covered by the media, so it’s been in the public eye. It’s helped to promote the sport.
“Triathlon is also unique in that it attracts people from different specialisms. They like the challenge, it’s something a bit different that they see and decide to give it a go.”
Fox got into triathlon from an ultra distance running background, but he says ”in my honest opinion, I think the best triathletes come from a good swimming background.
They build up a good cardiac engine early on they they can take into the bike and run. One of the club’s swimming coaches, Clair Stenning agrees: “I came into it from a swimming background," she says.
“Some triathletes used to come to training sessions with my brother and I. “After a while, they asked us to swim in relay events and it grew from there. I think running is helped by swimming, then you just have to sort the bike.”
The club organises five coached training sessions per week across all three disciplines. There are three swim sessions, on Monday and Thursday evenings at the Link Centre and Saturday afternoon at Health Hydro. Running is held on a Wednesday night and a bike ‘spin’ session takes place on Thursday night.
Newcomer Jonathan Wain who joined in November says the group have welcomed him: “I’m new to it all," he said. “But it’s good to train with people. I have built up confidence and have already signed up for my first triathlon in South Cerney this summer.”
The new season begins this month and runs until September. The club is hosting an open day this Saturday at the Health Hydro on Milton Road for prospective members.
Fox says: “There will be members of the club on hand from 3.30 to answer any questions people might have about the sport or the club. “Then we’ll be taking our swim session from 4.30 as usual. Anyone is welcome to join in, or watch to see what the sessions are like.”
Since joining in 2009, Fox has completed a number of Ironman races and averaged four events per year, but even with his level of experience, still returns to the club week after week.
“Membership gives you two things," he says. "One - you’ve got people you can ask questions of, you can learn from their mistakes so you don’t have to make them yourself. “Secondly, just having people to train with makes you push that little bit harder and makes training much more interesting.”
For more information visit www.swindontriathlonclub.co.uk