reads Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - Contents Volume 8 Issue 6 -

In­Au­gust 2012, Lon­don, Eng­land hosted the sum­mer Olympics and there was much hype sur­round­ing two British lads: Alis­tair and Jonathan Brown­lee. Even if you weren’t a triathlon fan, the story of two broth­ers com­pet­ing against each other and the rest of the world was com­pelling. Now the story of their years lead­ing to Lon­don has been put to­gether into this in­spir­ing book.

Alis­tair and Jonathan al­ter­nate as nar­ra­tor. Their gen­uine, prag­matic and fre­quently com­i­cal opin­ions and rec­ol­lec­tions make for an en­ter­tain­ing read. Alis­tair had an early pas­sion for sports but Jonny claims he was dragged into triathlon by his big brother. Even at age nine, Alis­tair re­calls: “I hated the idea of any­thing stop­ping me ex­er­cis­ing. It didn’t mat­ter if it was freez­ing out­side, if there was hor­i­zon­tal sleet bat­ter­ing against the win­dows and tea al­most on the ta­ble. I’d stick on my vest and shorts and head out for a run any­way.”

Jonny how­ever, at age seven, pre­ferred rugby and foot­ball and re­sented be­ing put into sports lessons just be­cause Alis­tair was go­ing. But even­tu­ally the free stuff Alis­tair was bring­ing home from triathlons got Jonny’s at­ten­tion and he wanted to be part of that. “Some­times, if you’re forced to do stuff, you want to do the op­po­site. When my par­ents stopped forc­ing me to swim, bike and run, that’s when I wanted to do them again.”

But he ac­knowl­edges the truth of long­time coach Jack Mait­land’s the­ory that you need to love what you are do­ing to turn into a suc­cess­ful se­nior level ath­lete. “To make it you have to love train­ing more than any­thing else, and in par­tic­u­lar you have to love the bike,” says Jonny.

Mait­land’s tough train­ing ap­proach strength­ened the boys’ nat­u­ral de­ter­mi­na­tion and per­sis­tence. He led week­end train­ing camps for 14 to 18-year- olds that both Brown­lees loved, even when run­ning through the peaks of the York­shire Dales in heavy snow, ac­cel­er­at­ing wind and plum­met­ing tem­per­a­tures.

While there is a sec­tion out­lin­ing the Brown­lee ap­proaches to nu­tri­tion and men­tal train­ing, the bi­o­graph­i­cal nar­ra­tives are most fas­ci­nat­ing. We learn, for ex­am­ple, that Alis­tair’s first triathlon was at age nine and that he lost. Jonny’s first was at age eight and he won. It is riv­et­ing to hear the de­tails of how Alis­tair won gold and Jonny won bronze in Lon­don. Home crowds had shown them won­der­ful sup­port be­fore but “this was mind- blow­ing,” Alis­tair tell us, “like noth­ing we could have ever imag­ined, like noth­ing triathlon has ever seen be­fore.” Jonny’s penalty of 15 sec­onds added ten­sion where none was needed and within sight of the fin­ish line, Alis­tair be­gan to lose it and won­dered if he’d fail as trag­i­cally as he did four years ear­lier in Bei­jing.

We know that nei­ther failed and yet this in­side view of Lon­don and the year prior is quite en­light­en­ing. De­spite be­ing so ac­com­plished, the Brown­lees view them­selves as rather av­er­age blokes. Af­ter read­ing their story though, you will see they are far from av­er­age.

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