Triathlon is the country’s fastest growing sport. Hannah Davies speaks to the region’s oldest competitor and his teammates to discover its allure.
“IT’S nice going to competitions because you meet up with people in your age group in this country and around the world.”
Mike Hall, a retired Durham University lecturer, is explaining one of the many reasons why he loves taking part in triathlon competitions at the age of 78.
And at 73 his wife Kim, a former primary school teacher, agrees and says she certainly won’t be stopping taking part in the competitions any time soon either.
The couple have more energy than many people decades younger. And they attribute this to their continued love of the triathlon, a sport which involves set distances of running, swimming and cycling.
Neither sees age as any reason why they should stop competing.
Mike says: “You can still do triathlons as you get older, you just get a bit slower.
“There was one man who was doing them until he was well into his 80s, although I think he stopped a few years ago.”
Mike founded Durham’s Triathlon Club after his own mission to regain his lost fitness.
He had run cross-country at school, university and in the Army, which had given him a taste for fitness.
But, after leaving the Army Mike became an engineer and his work took him and wife Kim all over the world, which played havoc with their fitness regimes.
Mike recalls: “We both became very unfit in Thailand. The weather was too hot to exercise and both of us lost a lot of weight.
“We felt dreadful, so as soon as we returned to England it was a priority to get fit again.”
Mike and Kim, who have three children and five grandchildren, began running to try to regain their physiques and soon realised for all-over fitness cycling and swimming would give them the best workout.
Mike ran his first triathlon in 1986 and began meeting other people who enjoyed triathlons as well. But without a Durham club – the nearest was Newcastle – there was no place for people to train together and help each other with moral support and motivation.
“A few of us had a talk about setting up a triathlon club in Durham,” Mike says. “There was nowhere else nearby we could do it, the nearest was Newcastle, so we thought why not set one up?”
At the beginning there were only eight members but this has steadily grown throughout the years and currently there are about 35 members.
Mike and Kim still thoroughly enjoy taking part in triathlons, although they are giving the World Championships in Vancouver a miss this year as the flights are too expensive.
“And there are plenty of other events,” Kim says. “We’ll be taking part in the Strathclyde Triathlon in Glasgow this summer.”
Last year, Kim won the National Sprint Triathlon in Strathclyde, in the 70 to 74 age group, and she’s going for gold again in August.
Mike came second in his age group, 75 to 79, in the National Duathlon Championship (cycling and running) this year, and he won it last year.
In 2006 the couple won bronze medals in the age group at the World Triathlon Championships in Lausanne, Switzerland.
Mike says: “I can’t see any reason why I’d give them up any time soon. The thing which would worry me is stopping doing any exercise. That’s how you feel worse.”
Kim says: “We might be giving up the Olympic distances, though, as the swims are getting a bit much now.
“But it is just fun to do it and to keep on challenging yourself. Triathlons are fun rather than anything else, and of course it all makes you feel better.”
:: For information on triathlon in the region visit www.northernpulse.co.uk, for details of Durham Triathlon call Kay on 07708 732160 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
:: Durham Triathlon Club’s next training event is a duathlon on Thursday, June 19, at Meadowfield Sports Centre. It is only a training event and will be a 2.2mile run, 13.8-mile cycle ride and 2.2-mile run.
Anyone interested in taking part should call Kay on 07708 732160.
WHAT IS TRIATHLON?
A TRIATHLON comprises a swim, a cycle race and a run, usually in that order. The swim often takes place in a lake, sea, or other open water; the biking and run will generally be on road and pavement.
The distance swum, cycled and run differs depending on the race. A super sprint, 400m swim, 10km cycle and 2.5km run is the most accessible for novices. The Olympic distance is a 1.5km swim, 40km cycle and a 10km run. This is also known as "short course" and is the format raced in World Cups. Ironmen triathlons are for only the most experienced and fit. They involve a 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and a 42.2km run.
HOW DO I GET STARTED?
For triathlon training you need a good pair of running shoes, a good bike and a swimming costume.
Running shoes are essential and you should go to a good sports shop for advice on the right type of shoe. If you are serious about competing, a wetsuit will be needed for the swim section. If you are just starting out, you may be able to borrow one. Ask around. A swimsuit is fine for practice in your local pool.
Triathlons can be on any terrain, so make sure your bike is up to the job.
Some websites, including Northern Pulse, www.northernpulse.co.uk, have buying and selling sections where you may be able to pick up a bargain.
Joining a club is a great way to keep motivated. Find your nearest on Northern Pulse or www.tri247.com