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Researcher triathlete

Liz Richardson

3rd June 2016

“The real reason I joined a triathlon club was to meet the man of my dreams!”

University researcher Liz Richardson admits she did have ulterior motives when starting triathlon, but now – six years and a lot of action later (race action, that is) – the European age group champion is more than happy with the love she found…

The real reason I first joined a triathlon club was to meet the man of my dreams! But while I’ve not been successful at that so far, I have discovered a sport that not only I am incredibly passionate about, but I’m also good at, so I’d call that a win. Now, between work, training and keeping myself fed, watered and rested, there’s probably no room for a relationship anyway!

In 2010, I was 35 and an occasional jogger. I injured my hip and wasn’t able to run for about a year, so I gave swimming a go. Then, when I was fit again, I thought about putting the two together and give triathlon a go.

I wouldn’t have said I was sporty, definitely not. My proudest achievement was a half marathon (at a jogging pace), whereas nowadays I finish my triathlons with faster half marathons than back then. I wasn’t worried about joining a club because I was keen to meet people, but it was a social thing rather than fitness thing. I attended as many sessions as I could but I wasn’t obsessive – at first

I was nervous of the roads because I’d had a few accidents. I still am. Three years ago I was hit by an oncoming car. I was okay except from some bruising and whiplash, so I guess that’s relatively unscathed, but my bike was smashed to pieces and it did knock my confidence. Another time, a guy opened a car door just as I was coming past – my shoulder still hurts now. But you do just get back on again.

These days, I just presume all drivers are idiots. It’s safer that way. I’m extremely cautious and always train on the same routes, I never go into unfamiliar territory so I know what to expect, although I do cycle presuming nobody can see me.

I was elated when I finished my first race, it was a sprint. It was only a few months after I joined the triathlon club and I was so happy. I remember some of the older club members looking at me and saying to each other ‘look, this is how we are supposed to feel’. I was grinning my head off, it was just great.

I always liked the idea of the half IronMan (1.9 km swim, 56 mile bike, 13.1 mile run). And I worked my way towards it gradually, I went from sprint to standard in 2011, but then I didn’t quite get up to the distance in 2012. It was then that I thought, right, I need to take this more seriously, I had to work to a proper training programme, I need to train for a half IronMan. That’s probably when I started to become a bit more obsessed like I am today – getting up at 5am for training.

I completed my first half IronMan distance in 2013, it was the first race I ever started that I didn’t know if I could finish. It was an incredible feeling to finish that race. I always felt I could at least get round at sprint and Olympic distance but even though I’d trained for this one, it was still a step into the unknown.

I’ve now finished seven half IronMan races. I’ve got three more to do this year. I never thought I could exercise like this, you’re racing for around five hours – I used to think a two hour half marathon was a big enough challenge.

My dad still has the text I sent when I became European champion. It was only last year and I didn’t even know when I’d finished the race, I was just elated to have finished and to have raced well. I didn’t find out for another two hours! There were quite a lot of tears and I remember texting my dad to say ‘Um, I appear to be European champion’.