Rachel Fagan Face

1st June 2016

“We started doing run-walks to get the baby weight off”

Not only is Rachel Fagan a mum of three and works full-time in education, she’s also a seriously good athlete, not only has she run five marathons, (yes, five) with a best time of 3hrs 10mins, but she’s also a brilliant triathlete, having finished 2nd in the Borders Triathlon Series…

I started running to get the baby weight off. I was 32 at the time and I was very unfit, quite heavy and it was far from easy. There were three of us mums and I guess it was more of a run-walk at first. It wasn’t enjoyable either, but you knew it was doing some good, so you carried on. Within weeks though, I did start to get hooked.

I was sporty until I was about 13, but I stopped. My student years just involved studying and no exercises. It was only after the second child that I started again. I really did get into it though, I ran five marathons and even got a championship time of 3hrs and 10mins.of 20 years.

Triathlon looked really exciting but way beyond me. Because I was really into running, I typically got a lot of running injuries, so would use swimming and cycling when I couldn’t run. I started to realise how much benefit I was getting from the cross training and I mustered up the courage to give triathlon a go.

I was worried about the fitness, the bike skills and the swimming! I was a swimmer that did a bit of front crawl, bit of breaststroke, but not a freestyler. I think the biggest fear was the transition though, I just thought ‘how do you even manage to do that’? The concept of doing three sports and switching from one to another terrified me. I kept thinking I wouldn’t be able to find my stuff or get out of the wetsuit in time!

My first triathlon wasn’t a disaster. It went fairly well really. It wasn’t a major achievement, but I was glad to have done it, especially as I’d managed to finish on a bike that I’d only got a week before. I certainly didn’t think I was good enough to do a triathlon beforehand. After that first one though, it was a springboard, and I know it’s easy to see now, but if you think you can’t do it, you won’t do it.

I got a bit more confident in the swimming. I just relaxed a bit and as I started to train all the disciplines, I just started to get more confidence from doing a bit more of everything. I went to my local triathlon club and just doing the swim sessions where a coach pointed out elements on your stroke made a difference. I entered a sprint and I was a lot faster. I was still nervous about transition though.

Joining a triathlon club is a lot easier than a running club. Even more so with triathlon, people are all shapes and sizes. It’s the same with races, you can’t look at someone and see how they’d perform. My local triathlon club has a massive spread of ages, experience, ability and size.

Like the running, I got hooked on triathlon. After the sprint, I then entered the next and the next, did well in the Scottish Borders sprint series, then moved on to Olympic distance and, before long, I’d signed up for a half IronMan. Now, that was really tough.

It’s very busy trying to juggle everything with three children and a full-time job. It’s never dull though. It’s massively changed my family life as they often wake up to me coming back from training. I do a lot more travelling without my family too, and I’ve met loads of new people – it’s given me so much confidence to try new things and challenge myself.

I think my kids both love it and loathe it. They’ve told me you’re I’m a brilliant mum and inspiring too. My middle daughter Rhiannon, she’s a runner, and my two boys, Dylan and Alfie, are more football and rugby players. They don’t go to lots of events, but they will come to the finish of the major ones. When I say ‘loathe’, it’s more about the kit. They’re always asking, ‘why have you got more new shoes, mum?’ or ‘why have you got new kit mum?’

I rely on a very supportive husband who puts up with a lot. I’ve have great friends who help me out too. You have to plan in advance to make it work, planning training around kids’ activities is a good tip. Over the last few years when kids have got their sport, I’ll put in a session in between dropping them off and picking them up.

The key is not to get too fixated on a schedule. Even if you’ve planned to do a session, still things that crop up all the time, so you can’t worry about doing things at a certain time, every time – you have to be flexible. With three children and a full-time job, any time you do get you have to use to your advantage. I also call in a lot of favours, and give out favours to like-minded friends who have kids – that way we can all share the load a bit.

You also have to accept that you’re going to be tired. It’s not easy, but it is worthwhile. Those moments you appreciate it are before and after a really good race or training session. You get the buzz before and afterwards. There are times when it’s really hard going doing it all, but those moments make it worth it.

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