Why I’m trying triathlon

30 January 2015

To be honest, I signed up for the Keswick Mountain Festival short triathlon on a bit of an impulse. I’m not much of a cyclist and I’m really quite scared of water - but despite all that, I love the idea triathlon and this one looked like a great place to start. The distances aren’t too daunting, the scenery is amazing (it might even take my mind off the pain!) and the atmosphere is sure to be fantastic - all in all, it looked too good to miss.

It was a similar kind of impulse that made me take up running seven years ago. Until then, I’d always thought of ‘jogging’ as something other people did - my school PE teacher had made it pretty clear that I would never be able to run for toffee, and I’d never thought to prove him wrong until I the Endurance Life Exmoor Half Marathon caught my eye in the ‘New Year’s Challenge’ edition of the Saturday Guardian in 2007. It was the shortest race in the ‘tough’ category - they’d put it in amongst the marathons on account of being off-road and hilly - and somehow I was fascinated by that. What was ‘trailrunning’, and how could it be so hard?! I wanted to see it for myself, so that January I started to run. As it happens, I never managed the half marathon - by the time the race came round in May, I had awful shin splints, and limping round the 10k course was more than enough. I went back two years later and ran the marathon, but I’ve still never done the half.

Since Exmoor, trailrunning and hill races have become a huge part of my life - first 10ks, then half marathons, mountain marathons, trail marathons and my first ultra. I love running - it’s a big part of who I am today - but over the past few years, I’ve been increasingly intrigued by the world of triathlon, too. In 2010 I chalet-hosted for a holiday group of triathletes who were out in the Alps for a long weekend tackling the Alpe d’Huez triathlon, and I was full of admiration for what they were doing - but it felt like a different world, reserved for people with natural-born aptitudes for swimming and biking.

Becoming a mum changed my views on that. My little boy arrived last year, and suddenly it seemed more important than ever to live life to the full, without any limitations from fear of failure or fear itself. It’s not just about me any more; it’s about being the person that I want to be and the role model that I’d like him to grow up with: being the best that I can be, in order to give him the confidence and self-belief that he can grow up to love the outdoors and live his own dreams, too.

In the case of triathlon, I saw that I had relegated myself to the role of spectator in a sport where I’d much rather be out on the course - and that nothing would change that unless I went out there and changed it myself. So when the KMF short tri flashed through my twitter feed one morning, I decided to stop wishing and start doing. 2015 is going to be my Year of Adventure - I’ve already challenged my fear of heights by taking my first climbing and ice climbing lessons; I’ve launched my own line of fitness classes for mums who want to get fit outdoors with their babies; I’m signed up for my first post-baby ultra and I’m running the Mont Blanc Marathon in June - so in terms of feeling ready to rise to the triathlon challenge, the time is NOW!

To get me off to the right start, I got in touch with a couple of seasoned triathlete friends - Arc to Arch Enduroman veteran Andy Mouncey and former Royal Marine Tom Alden; both fitness instructors too, who should know a thing or two when it comes to triathlon training.

Their advice was reassuringly consistent: as Andy put it, ‘work on your weaknesses’. Tom’s colleague Heather, a GB team triathlete herself, advised me to practice each discipline at least once a week, with any extra sessions focusing on my weakest areas. (That’ll be a lot of trips to the pool this winter, then!)

I was also happy to hear that my kit expenditure might not be quite as extreme as I’d initially feared - I’ve already got at least five of the items on the list of ‘Top 10 Essentials’ that Andy kindly sent me, starting with a good pair of running shoes (or six …) and finishing with ‘a big cheeky grin’(!). I’d had no idea that seasonal wetsuit hire was an option, but apparently that’s the normal way to get started and will save some pennies too. It sounds as though my current mountain bike will see me right; possibly with a new set of tyres. So from here, it’s over to me to get started; get a programme in place and get training!

And with that in mind, it’s about time I went to the pool ...

Winter training, Alpine style
Summer training, mummy style


Jo Cowper

Jo Cowper

I’m a full-time marketing director, part-time fitness instructor, proud mum and keen trail runner. I’m on a mission to bring up my little boy in a world that’s full of outdoor fun and adventure, and I really want to help inspire more new mums get outdoors and active with their kids too. So, I’ve made 2015 my Year of Adventure. I’ll be running my first post-baby marathon and ultramarathon; having my first climbing lessons; tackling my first-ever triathlon at Keswick Mountain Festival and, in my spare time, setting up outdoor fitness classes for mums and buggies in Glasgow.

  • Location: Glasgow
  • Event entered: Short Triathlon
  • Favourite outdoor activity: Trail Running
  • Favourite cake: Chocolate Cheesecake

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