14 August 2022

Triathlon Blog: Top marks for the Vitality World Triathlon, London

June 12, 2015

The weather forecast for the 2 hour window of my event at the Vitality World Triathlon was looking pretty grim – heavy rain and squally winds and then the sun was due to come out as I finished – great! As it happened, it was not nearly as bad as predicted, on top of that the volunteers, event organisation and fellow competitors were all brilliant – in fact this was one of the most welcoming and supportive events I have ever done.


Despite reading my comprehensive pre-race instructions, studying the brilliant tips supplied by Jodie Stimpson and eating enough for an army the day before, I was still apprehensive when I arrived at the venue.

It’s all the little things that bother you, like where to put the bike while registering, what to do with your backpack during the race and exactly when to get into the wetsuit.

Often the first person you meet at an event can either, put you at ease or put you right off. I remember once taking my son to his first cross country event as a young teenager, we got shouted at for being in the wrong queue, then no one could tell us what to do or where to go and he ended up missing his start. There were tears all round and we never went back. We didn’t feel like we belonged there and that is certainly no way to treat anyone, whatever their age.

At the Vitality World Triathlon, my experience was completely the opposite. From the turn marshal at Marble Arch who pointed out the way to the start, to the volunteers registering me, to the women who helped me make sense of the myriad of number stickers and all the numerous helpers around the course – without exception I was made to feel welcome. This made me feel like I was worthy of being there and that meant I enjoyed myself immensely.

My fellow competitors were brilliant too, it didn’t seem to matter if people had all the kit or just make-do kit, there was no judgement and people smiled and chatted to complete strangers. One woman gave me some anti-chaffing lotion and zipped me up, we all discussed the course as we nervously lined up for the start of the swim and people asked me how it had gone as I made my way back to my kit at the end.

So how did it go? Well, not badly actually. I was most concerned about the swim leg since I had only taught myself front crawl a couple of months ago and had only managed one open water swim beforehand. I followed advice and made sure I was right at the edge of the row, just three people in. So when the hooter went off, I hesitated, let everyone go, then I hung back and snuck up the inside.


After about 150 metres I could see that I was doing ok, ahead of about half the pack and in clear water at the side. I didn’t expect that, but it meant I could swim freely. The horror stories about people swimming over you, knocking off goggles, grabbing feet etc just didn’t happen and despite my left goggle filling up, I managed to find my way to the exit ramp and haul myself out.

It was a fairly long jog to the transition and I spent most of it faffing with my wetsuit zip, but once I had mastered the un-zipping, it was a fairly smooth switch to the bike leg.

There’s a lot to think about in triathlon –especially your first and it’s daft things like where, how and when to mount your bike, that stressed me out. Again, I needn’t have worried because someone very kindly shouted instructions – clearly with no fuss and with exactly what I needed to know.

The bike leg was three laps and included two fairly tight turns, I’ll be honest, I wimped out at the turn at end of the first lap and put my foot down, I got a bit stressed about the pro-looking riders approaching behind and panicked. I then apologized in a very British manner to anyone that was listening in case I was in their way. “it’s alright mate, you’re fine’ shouted back the most pro of all the pro riders, I was amazed and my morale boosted.

My second mistake was dropping my bottle as I went to put it back in it’s cage half way round – really annoying and really dangerous for the other competitors. That’s one more thing to learn and practice. The predicted rain arrived half way through the last lap, and in style too – the heavens opened and despite meaning we all slowed down it kind of added to the whole experience.

The bike transition was pretty smooth, although I did hesitate to make sure I had done everything before heading off purely because another woman seemed to be taking much longer than me. I also had a momentary worry about where to go and this is the one thing that takes a bit of getting used to – the transition area has athletes at all stage of the race including finishers and so there was a fair bit of dodging people to make my way out on to the course.

The run was, as expected, a bit of a hobble and my now sopping wet sports bra, wasn’t as supportive as normal. But somehow I managed it and before I knew it the end was in sight and I even managed a little bit of a faster run to the line. before hearing my name announced on the loud tannoy, which is always nice!


All-in-all it was a fantastic experience and I would encourage anyone to give it a go – it’s every bit as brilliant as other iconic events like the London Marathon or London to Brighton Bike ride.

Good points

ŸŸŸ- The people: The volunteers, the fellow competitors and the organisers were all excellent.

– Great course, all very contained and safe with closed roads and great spectators.

– Lots of pre-race advice and help on the day

– Real food snacks (oranges/bananas etc) and simple water stations with cups were so much better than excessive bottles of wasted water and heavily branded nutrition products that are so common at events these days.

– Great for bringing family and supporters to – the added excitement of the pro’s starting in the afternoon added a real buzz to the event.

– Unlike a running event there is no queue for the loo because everyone is starting at different times throughout the day. There was even loo roll.


Bad points

– Really hard to think of any at all. Maybe that the central London venue is tricky to get to by car and public transport can be a bit of a headache on a Sunday.

Find out more about the event here

Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine

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