GTC athlete of the month: Alan Anderson

Few people will have missed our athlete of the month, Alan Anderson, in fancy dress as he ran the final stage of Ironman Wales last month.

In fact, he often likes to dress up for races, such as this outfit for the Ayr Sprint Triathlon in 2006  – and he has plans for an even fancier outfit for IM Wales 2019 (read on!).

The novelty outfits are Alan’s form of self-motivation for the section of triathlon that he enjoys the least: Running.

He says: “I hate running anything longer than the length of a rugby pitch. No, I mean, I hate running anything longer than the length of a bike. But I managed to smile and laugh all the way round this year’s IM Wales run course wearing fancy dress.

“Wearing fancy dress is, for me, showmanship mixed with a desire for extra encouragement. Put a smile on the faces of 20,000-plus people, particularly the kids, and they will do that back to you twice a lap for four laps.”

Alan’s journey to GTC

Alan, who is a comedian, comedy promoter, event commentator and race organiser when he is not doing triathlon, has been with GTC for 13 years.

Prior to this, his favoured sports were skiing and rugby (he was a winger). He also cycled everywhere because he did not learn to drive until he was 30.

Alan says: “All the cycling in my uni years meant I had big strong thighs. I even became a became a city centre cycle courier for a while.”

But Alan has a confession. He says: “I am a former doper.”

He explains: “I played rugby to a decent amateur level. While at uni, I was playing three first team games a week for the uni, hall and a local club.

“For two summers, I trained with the London Scottish Development squad and played in their Sevens. I was fast and I was gobby.

“At that time I also started taking part in a medical trial for a male contraceptive. That involved getting injected monthly on a Thursday with lots of testosterone.

“So, for five years I was buff AF and I could train and train and train, and play and play and play. Thanks to the wee red glow, my body would easily recover overnight.

“My coaches and fellow players knew the weekends when the injections must have happened because I was more gobby than usual and my tackling was immense. I regularly hospitalised opposition players.

“When the trials stopped I was still training hard and playing hard, but my body started to break down.

“More often than not I would spend Saturday evenings in A&E getting patched up after matches. So I gave up rugby.”

The next period of Alan’s life saw him living in Glasgow’s East End when he confesses he “piled on the weight”. He says: “I was in an unhappy marriage and had a regular diet of Chinese takeaway followed by more takeaway washed down with wine.

“I could now drive and spent many hours in the car driving to gigs or sat behind a desk at Glasgow Royal Concert Hall. The weight piled on.

“I needed a challenge that wasn’t ‘run a marathon’. EK Triathlon club used to train at my school pool and rugby club, so I thought, ‘Let’s give triathlon a go.’ ”

After signing up to his first triathlon, the North Berwick Novice, he joined GTC.

Alan’s favourite sport is cycling.

A long-held love of cycling

Cycling is still Alan’s favoured sport. He says: “I love the buzz of riding in a fast, well-structured chain gang. But better than that, you cannot beat the adrenaline rush of flying down a hillside at 100kph.

“Cycling is also the discipline I do the most, however, in the past four years SwimRun is the thing I have enjoyed the most. Getting to unusual places and exploring landscapes and waterways that you couldn’t by just walking or just swimming or just kayaking. It is soooooo liberating, both physically and mentally.”

Since joining GTC, Alan has seen the most improvement with his swimming. He says: “I had never had any formal swim coaching since the basic learn-to-swim lessons as a kid.”

Loch Rannoch swim on New Year’s Day 2015.
The first year of Alan’s SwimRun Inch by Inch event .

Racing and achieving

These days, Alan prefers the longer-distance races. He says: “I need goal to aim for and a reason to train and get out of bed in the morning. A sprint distance isn’t a good enough reason.”

He was delighted to finish IMWales and “get through the run smiling and laughing”. He adds: “That was definitely an achievement for me.”

He is also thrilled to have encouraged 50 GTC members to sign up to race IM Wales in 2019.

Alan says: “I am also proud to hold the downhill Strava KOM on Arran’s The String. Nothing will ever compare to zooming passed Graham Milne at 101kph whilst he screamed Fannybaws at me…

“…well, except doing the event announcing at the Glasgow Commie Games.

“The noise of Strathy Park made at the end of swim lap 1 when I announced over the PA that former GTC youngster Marc Austin was the only swimmer on the heels of the Brownlees was louder than any cheer I have ever heard in 30 years of DJing or doing comedy.

“Bob Newton first thrust a microphone into my hand at Strathy Park race in 2007 or 2008. Thanks to his need for a gobshite, I have now commentated on Commie Games, Euro Champs, many British and Scottish Champs for both triathlon and cycling and I have met and interviewed many of the biggest names in sport.

“My favourite occasion was chatting about Marc to Radio 2 Vassos Alexander for about five minutes while we were using the urinals/hand washing in Strathy park.

“I was asked if I was available for Rio Olympics but had to turn it down. I even turned down being Kylie’s warm up at the Hampden Park closing ceremony so I could announce the medal ceremony for the Men’s Road Race.

“Am I the only person to turn down Kylie in favour of Geraint Thomas?!”

Commentating and announcing at the medal ceremony for the mixed relay at the Commonwealth Games at Strathclyde Park.

Alan is proud, too, of the sporting events he organises himself. He says: “Since the first 3 Pistes Sportive in 2014 almost 10,000 people have taken part in events I have organised. This is all thanks to a bit of inspiration from GTC members Nick Vaughan and Craig Napier and lots of motivation from the likes of Duggie Mac, Nick Green and of course big Russell, Hannah and Tom, as well as many, many other brilliant GTC members.

“I want to continue to put on quality, cheap races that encourage more Scottish triathletes to race longer and race more often, but also encourage English and international athletes to come and race here.

“We have the best roads, best inland waterways and most stunning scenery in the UK but in Celtman! only one long distance triathlon. With the short-lived experiment of IM70.3 Edinburgh not likely to happen again, we don’t have an internationally recognised middle distance.”

Alan is also keen to grow SwimRun Loch Lomond into a world-class race and a must-do event for all multi sport athletes.

He says: “I also want to spend more time at home with the family while still aiming to knock the following off my IM Wales times: 15 minutes off my swim, 45 minutes off the bike and 45 minutes off the run.

“T2 will be longer because I have to up my game and go full Guy Pearce in Priscilla Queen of the Desert for the run!”

Alan’s triathlon tips

Choose a race in a fun or interesting place that is just beyond what you think your capabilities are – and enter it. This gives you a training goal.

Join a club and get as much benefit from the knowledge of the coaches… particularly with swimming.

You do not deserve a medal just for finishing. Age group racing is pointless. Who cares whether you are the fastest 40 to 44-year-old. Make sure you have fun. Don’t let the training take over your life. Enjoy it, do lots of it, but you are getting fit and healthy to enjoy everything else in life. Enjoying your sport and your life is more important that trying to be faster than a middle-aged dentist with carbon wheels worth £8k.