Meet the athletes

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Get to know some of British Triathlon’s elite squad and hear about how they got into triathlon

Tim Lebbon


New Year's Day 2011 ...

I was almost 15 stones, unfit, and found it really hard work walking to my local pub with a bunch of friends so that I could break my resolution from the previous midnight and drink five pints and have a burger. 'That's it,' I thought. 'It's too late to turn things around now.' I stared into my glass, afraid that it would remain half-empty forever.

Fast forward ten years.

New Year's Day 2021 ... I weigh 12 stones now, have just started dry January again, and have spent Covid Christmas looking back on how I got fit during my fifth decade. Five Ironman races, a dozen middle distance, countless other tri's and marathons and half marathons and ultras and sportives, and now my glass was half full. Of water!

Ten years ago, the change was meeting an old friend I hadn't seen for a while. He'd gone from chubby and unfit to sleek and lithe, and when I asked what had happened he told me, 'I got fit.' Those three words planted a seed in me, and a desire to commit to something way beyond my capability (which right then didn't even stretch to walking to the local!) Five months later my friends and I completed the National Three Peaks Challenge, and that really was a pivotal point in my life. I could have fallen back into my old ways, mission accomplished. Or I could have continued on with my fitness journey.

I loved the outdoors and getting into the mountains, fell in love with trail running, bought a bike, learned how to swim and then once again committed to something I felt was beyond my ability––Ironman UK. The mere concept of doing an Ironman was terrifying, but joining my tri club NEWT changed my whole outlook. As well as most of the members looking grizzled and skinny and weather-worn, they were the most welcoming, lovely, and inspirational bunch of people I'd ever been around.

I learned a saying during my training for Ironman UK –– 'If you think you can do something, or think you can't, you're probably right' –– and that's become my mantra in life. I completed Ironman UK and went on to race Ironman Wales, Outlaw, The Brutal, and Ironman Canada on the day of my 50th birthday! I adore racing (and have really missed it during Covid), and love training, and I say without any sense of exaggeration that doing an Ironman changed my life. That's true ... but it's everything around it as well, including joining such a fabulous club. You race a triathlon solo, but in reality training and competing is a team effort, because very few people I know can do it all on their own. You can read countless books about training and racing, but going for a social ride with an experienced triathlete, you'll gain more advice and learn more valuable lessons than anywhere.

Through my twenties and thirties I made countless efforts to get fit and lose weight, but always failed because those two were my prime aims. Discovering triathlon gave me a focus, and falling in love with this crazy, wonderful sport meant that fitness and weight loss was now almost a by-product of doing something I love! I firmly believe the secret to improved fitness is finding a reason to train other than purely for fitness. Something you love. Something that inspires you. For me, that's triathlon. For my sister-in-law it's pole dancing! Everyone has their own reason, it's just a matter of finding it.

I'm a professional writer by trade read about my fitness journey in my forties, it's called Run Walk Crawl -- Getting Fit in My Forties

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