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First triathlon of the summer for me, education award for Fiona

Posted on 12 July 2009 | 9:07am

The triathlon season is well under way, and today is my first of the summer. However, in part because of a shoulder injury which has prevented me from swimming, I am taking part in a relay, with Olympic gold medal-winning canoeist Tim Brabants the one getting wet for the cause, before I get on the bike when he clambers out of the water.

It is the Bananaman Tri at Lake Dorney, its name drawn from the so-called Banana Army who do sport to raise money for Leukaemia Research. Tim lost his Mum to this horrible disease.

Triathlon is reckoned to be the fastest growing participation sport in Britain, and I recommend it to anyone who gets bored training in just one discipline.

When I first started doing triathlon, I had barely swum since school, apart from splashing around in a pool on holiday, and I had not owned a bike since I was 18. I actually went back to get proper swimming lessons, and as regulars on the blog will know, cycling has now overtaken running as my favourite fitness pastime.

They reckon the pressure on the body of a full Olympic triathlon (1500m swim, 40k bike, 10k run) is roughly akin to running a marathon. I’m not so sure about that, but one tip I will give to anyone doing a full triathlon for the first time — try to separate out the three disciplines in your mind. Don’t think of the race as a whole. Say to yourself you are going to swim a mile. Then you’ll get out of your wetsuit and onto a bike, which you will ride for 25 miles. Then you will change into running shoes and run 10k. When you’re swimming, think of swimming. When you’re cycling, concentrate on the bike. Try not to think ‘oh my God, all this, and then I have to run.’ And on the run, just grind it out.

We are a third of the way to raising the 50k in honour of Henry Hodge as part of our Big 5-0 celebrations of Leukaemia Research’s 50th anniversary, so thanks to everyone who has contributed. Anyone minded to join them go to

Today’s exertions mean I won’t be with Fiona in Stoke Rochford as she receives the Fred and Anne Jarvis award for campaigning in education. As our children and I know very well, there is barely a day in any week when she is not fighting the fight for State schools, whether in general in the arguments she makes publicly or in taking up the cudgels for specific schools and specific children.

As my Mum always says whenever it is suggested one or both of us might stand for Parliament, Fiona would make a far better constituency MP than I would. She has more patience for a start. As it happens, I think it unlikely either of us will, though I think we have both learned in recent years there are lots of ways to try to make a difference. One thing is for sure, just as former NUT general secretary Fred Jarvis is still campaigning well past retirement age, so will Fiona. Whether I’ll still be cycling is another matter.

At least the sun has come out, which doesn’t half make a difference to triathletes getting out of the water and onto the bike. You should try it.

  • Iron Man

    Hey – you forgot to mention the Vaseline. When in doubt, slap it on!! And when are you doing an Iron Man? I mean Olympic distance is ok for a stroll, but you need to get out there with the Big Boys. You can’t beat a marathon at the end of a nice long swim and a 100 mile plus bike ride

  • Harry Fletcher

    Good luck, and well done to Fiona. You’re right that people can make a difference in so many ways and campaigning is one of them. I have worked for a not for profit voluntary organisation in the housing sector and I sometimes feel I have achieved more in this than in anything I ever did in my professional life. Strong beliefs matched to a determination to act take you a long way

  • Patsy George

    Fascinating to see the papers today. They are so keen this phone hacking scandal goes awsy. Are they all at it? Is that why the coverage is so quiet? Interesting to see Tebbit out there though, saying Coulson should go before the ethics committee. I know he is a bit old hat and bitter about things, but I bet he is not the only one in there who thinks Cameron went ott on expenses, with Coulson probably driving him on.

  • Jane A

    Hope the triathlon goes well and it stays dry for you. Really good news re the award for Fiona – I know recognition isn’t why people get involved in these causes, but it’s always good to see hard work acknowledged.

  • Marion

    Great stuff Fiona. Thank God someone is campaigning for state schools. I was in one on Friday. 600 kids on roll and supply teacher list was as long as your arm. Smart boards that didn’t work etc… AND that wasn’t a particularly bad example of inner-city comps!

    AC – time to train for triathlon? Surely it’s a sport for students, the part-time or retired?

  • Katharine T.

    Good luck to you sir and best wishes to your partner.

    I find it intersting how Type A people are drawn to things like marathons and triathalons; the whole thing holds less than zero appeal to me, however, I admire the determination and dedication it takes. I quit my 5 year quest to be a bodybuilder in my 30’s because I was just tired of being in pain and injured every single day, and I found once I had quit, I quit. I can’t even get up enough gumption to go to the gym regularly anymore. So I admire anyone who keeps on it and grinds on.

  • Suzanne Mellor

    I’ve just been reading the Sunday Times article by Tony Blair’s priest, who has written a book. Does everyone have to write a book these days? Needless to say he refers to your ‘we don’t do God’ and describes a meeting with you after you had been running in which he calls you the ‘Adonis of new Labour.’ And there was me thinking New Labour already had an Adonis. Hope the real AC Adonis did ok at the triathlon.

  • Alan Quinn

    AC say thanks from me as a school governor in a state school to Fiona for supporting our schools!