Back in the days when mullets were cool and mobile phones were the size of a brick, triathlon was invented by a chap called John Collins: a US Navy Commander who decided to amalgamate the three sports of swimming, cycling and running. On 18th Feb 1978, the Hawaii Ironman was first staged and out of the 15 starters only 12 finished. The winner that day was Gordon Haller with a time of 11hrs 46mins and 58sec.
In the winter of 1991 Col Gardener went to work in his spare time at Sub Two Fitness Centre in Rowlands Gill: owned and managed by Tony and Kirsty Wade (the famous 400m runner) During this time a rather tall chap (big Les to his friends) used to frequent the same facility where his training routine attracted great curiosity. This guy didn’t pump iron, oh no, but boy did he work hard moving from rowing machine to bike then to treadmill and then sometimes do it all again. One day, curiosity got the better of me and foolishly asked what he was training for ”triathlon of course” was the reply. After much interrogation of this scantily clad sweatbox and armed with the knowledge about this new sport, it became the topic of heated debate at the next social gathering. Needless to say, several ales later Col G had entered said event, which was to be held at Blyth Sports Centre, throwing the gauntlet at the feet of good friend and very hairy runner, Tony Robson. Couple of borrowed bikes later and trip to the shops for some Speedos and hey presto – fully prepared for the event.
Records show that both completed the event but more impressively were not last. (I witnessed them drying their hair and getting changed after the swim – Sue) That was it: bitten, smitten, hooked line and sinker – this was to be the challenge each year, faster, stronger, year after year of training, trying, racing.
Lady of the cake
Whilst this ongoing pursuance of excellence was going on, in another village not so far away another chap was doing something very similar but on a much grander, more accomplished manner: Cycling Time Trials. This very same chap also used the very same gym and eventually the two paths crossed. Colin Chapman was introduced to Colin G and they trained and raced together and became great friends. It was after one of these lonely excursions of time trial racing that a strange urge befell Col G. After much undercover groundwork, designing kit, looking for sponsors, checking out the governing bodies it was time to reveal all. One rainy Sunday afternoon in the Rising Sun, a friendly gathering of Col G, Col Chapman and the then Ms Richmond discussed the results of months of secrecy. The first reaction was a one of total insanity, what run a triathlon club, who, what, when, how?
More beer required, thought Col G, and so the story goes and the rest is now history. An initial close-knit bunch of friends and family with like-minded interest formed the inaugural year of membership in 2001 and since then the club has grown from strength to strength. Thanks to the dedication and endless hours of time spent by various folk, coaching, organising and coaxing, an infrastructure has been built to enable the club to be transformed into a formidable organisation as good as if not better than any in the country.
I hope it will continue in the same vein and endeavour to maintain its values as it was first intended that first rainy afternoon.
Yours in sport