reads Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story
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.