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Ten years ago I took part in a sport that just a year prior I had never heard of. I entered into a strange tribe of lycra clad athletes who all looked like they knew what they were doing. And not only that they all had incredible bodies, strong, long limbs…washboard stomachs and broad shoulders.

These were proper fitness folk…but for some reason they didn’t intimidate me.

I was taking part in The London Triathlon, an epic event held in London’s Docklands where its enormous scale allowed me and my fat body a certain amount of anonymity.

A few weeks ago as part of British Triathlons YourGoTri event, I took part in a much smaller event, a duathlon held in the Olympic Parks Velopark…and trust me there was nowhere for me to hide.

14241630_643405662502311_2679169530341066043_oI was in last position after the first 30 seconds, and by the time I got on my bike, many of the athletes were finishing up their 10 lap campaign, and getting ready for their final mile of running.

I can see why lots of people would be scared of the prospect of signing up for a triathlon, even if you can swim, cycle and run…the fear of looking stupid, coming last, being laughed at is real, its culpable and add to that a body which is carrying around some additional weight and its easy to see how someone might say

No, Triathlons are not for me

I’m Too Fat

Too Old

Too Non Sporty

That word “Too” it’s a seriously restrictive word, a word that helps us put up barriers and hurdles, where they don’t need to be. a word which keeps us playing small, keeps us playing safe.

A doctor once told me I was Too Fat to Run  (you can read about it here)…surely the last 10 years and this blog are evidence to the contrary…imagined if I’d listened to him?

I once told myself I was too fat to go travelling…only slim attractive people go backpacking around the world I thought…the 5 weeks I spent in South East Asia were an incredible adventure, and one I might have missed out all together if I had listened to those voices.

But back to Triathlon

brownleeIt’s easy to look at the incredible Brownlee Brothers and think that they alone incapsulate all that is great about the sport…but without taking anything away from their recent display of sportsmanship…the feeling of accomplishment and pride I felt cycling up the last hill of a 10 mile cycle leg, still with a mile of running to go, with a couple of hundred “already finished their race” athletes cheering me on…will always stay with me.

And there are efforts similar to mine taking place at events around the world by athletes that look more like me than them all the time.

The sport has changed over the last 10 years without a shadow of a doubt, you only have to check out the range of events taking place for beginners up and down the country to know that bodies of all sizes are welcome.

However there is still room for improvement.

  • Kit – It can be tough finding kit that fits…I squeezed into a size 20 wetsuit the first time I did a Triathlon…not sure how easy it would be for example to find a suit in a size 22 or 24. There are so many fitness brands out there that are just ignoring this market….we need to put pressure on the big guys (excuse the pun) to provide kit for us big guys…what on earth do you expect us to wear otherwise?
  • Marketing – It would be great to have more profile for plus size athletes in magazines, or when advertising events, or the sport in general. Let us see women who look like us, rather than men that look like them. My recent collaboration with British Triathlon and their recent campaign is absolutely a step in the right direction.
  • Recognition – I wonder what creative steps could be put in place to recognise achievements from athletes that are never going to win races, I know in the states for example they have Athena categories and prizes for athletes over a certain weight category…or how about a Too Fat to Tri wave at popular events…even if there were only 10 or 15 participants…at least we would feel we were welcome.

I would like to thank British Triathlon for their support over the last few months, it has been interesting getting to know the sport once again, and although I didn’t manage a full Triathlon (due to logistics rather than anything else) I feel like there is at least one in me…so maybe 2017


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