Brighton Triathlon Club
Dust off the bike in the shed, reclaim your trainers and take a dive into triathlons says Laura Cartledge.
If the word ‘triathlon’ has you running in the opposite direction, chased by images of the Brownlee brothers and a whole lot of hard work, then a new Brighton based club might make you think again.
“I think anyone can do a triathlon. A lot of people think it is very elite but that is a big misconception,” says Mal Burden, one of four founding members of the Brighton Triathlon Club. “You do not have to be super fit to get into it as long as you have determination to try something new.”
Boiling the sport down to its three parts does make it seem a lot simpler, and, unlike many others, a big appeal of triathlons is how surprisingly easy it is to get started.
“The beauty of it is if you want to go for a run all you need are trainers, for a swim a swimsuit and to start any bike you have, and are comfortable on, will do,” Mal says. “We go to the Brighton Velodrome [in Preston Park] and there is always an assortment of different bikes going around.”
Priding itself on its inclusive nature the club welcomes anyone aged 18 or over, regardless of their experience, and is run by qualified coaches who all met through the sport before deciding to launch their own club.
“Some of our members have done two or three triathlons before and other people are coming to it completely fresh,” he says. “Perhaps they cycle, or swim, or run, already but want to develop the others. With us it costs £40 a year to be a member and with that they are essentially getting free coaching.”
The belief that Brighton offers a real market for the sport has already been proven right, despite the fact membership has only been open for six weeks when I meet up with Mal.
“We have 82 members,” he grins. “We very much believe we are one of the fastest growing clubs in Sussex, if not the south east.”
“We are attracting a range of people. In terms of age, our largest percent of members are between 35 to 39,” adds Mal. “I am not sure that surprises me, I came to triathlon later on.”
In fact it could be argued Mal came to triathlons almost by chance.
“I was a big beefy rugby player. I was eating too much, drinking too much and piling on the pounds,” he laughs. “I needed a lifestyle change and had always been interested in cycling – I used to commute by bike to work every day.
“I saw an advert for the London Triathlon and thought I would give it a go,” he says. “I signed up and did a bit of training, I finished in the top ten per cent to my surprise and thought maybe I could be reasonably good at it.”
So what does he like most about the sport?
“The training is never boring as there is always something different you can be doing,” replies Mal.
“I always need a challenge, like many of the people who have joined us. Already we are seeing huge smiles on their faces – they like that it is a good way to meet people and a lot of fun.”
The community spirit also stretches to local businesses, such as bike shops and Pells Pool, in Lewes, which the club are very passionate about.
Despite the relaxed approach, triathlons have become serious business since the London 2012 Olympics, with it now being reported as the fastest growing participation sport in the UK.
“I think it will have an impact,” Mal agrees. “The Olympics gave sport a massive boost, and I think eventually triathlons will become more popular than marathons.”
And Mal is already seeing the impact close to home…
“My wife has gone from being a bit of a couch potato to taking over my bike,” he admits. “She is doing the London to Brighton cycle ride.”
Depending on how his wife takes that comment, and if he can get his bike back, Mal has big ambitions for the future.
These include applying for the 2015 Marathon des Sables, a 268km race across the Sahara Desert.
“I am not just going to run it,” he grins. “I am also a geography teacher and have big plans to turn it into a big geography project hopefully involving Google.”
While the club is not doing things by half measures either.
“We want to get recognised for being one of the best clubs in the country,” reveals Mal, “develop our own event here and a youth section – after all that is where the future of the sport is.”
To find out more about the Brighton Triathlon Club, visit www.brightontri.org