Ben is chair of the GTC youth committee. He has been involved in the club for four years, first as a parent and for the last three years as a member himself.
Ben describes his sporting abilities as “an enthusiastic amateur”. He says: “I have always swum and cycled and it was my mum who encouraged me to swim. She took great pride in swimming in open water whenever possible and challenged my brother and me to follow her in.
“As I grew up in Edinburgh, I remember many dips in the North Sea at Gullane and Yellowcraigs and in all seasons.
“I can also remember my first racing bike. It was a 1980s Peugeot with a red, orange and yellow stripe. I loved that bike.”
The attraction of triathlon
The appeal of triathlon for Ben was the chance to combine several sports into one event. He says: “I enjoy swimming, cycling and running but I can get bored with too much of any of the three disciplines so the chance to break an event into three shorter sections really appeals to me.”
Swimming is still Ben’s favourite sport. He says: “It’s probably the discipline that I have kept up most over the years. In swimming I can find my ‘all day’ pace easier than in the other two disciplines, so I never really feel that I might have to stop and give up.
“I love the exhilaration of open water swimming and, in the last few years, I’ve also grown to love my regular pool sessions with our two boys Finlay and Joel.
“Helen doesn’t enjoy swimming so much so this is something I do alone with the boys. It’s so rewarding to see their progress.
“Although I’m not competitive, I have to admit that when Finlay, our older son, became faster than me, I didn’t really admit it for about three months. Joel will overtake me soon, too.”
Cycling rewards and improvement
It is cycling that Ben reports has improved the most since joining GTC. He says: “I can most clearly see the relationship between effort and reward in cycling.
“I live in the west end of Glasgow but work in Wishaw. After the clocks go forward in spring, I try to take the bike to work on the train once or twice a week and then cycle home. Depending on the route, it’s about 22 miles.
“Once I emerge from the winter and start cycling regularly, it’s great to be able knock 10 to 15 minutes off the cycle time home.”
Racing and friendships
In 2007, Ben took part in his first triathlon. He recalls: “It was a novice event in Erskine. I participated with my wife Helen and some friends.
“Helen, who was around 28 weeks pregnant at the time, didn’t realise that a marshal was marking the turn-point of the out-and- back run and she ended up running 5k instead of 3km. She still didn’t finish last though.”
Ben has since taken part in a number of triathlons, mostly sprint distance, but the sport means more to him than the competitions.
He says: “For me, swim, bike, run is about these things, keeping physically fit and not putting on weight; managing life’s stresses and maintaining good metal health; and, most importantly, creating memories with friends and family.
“My most memorable events were spending a day with friends in a relay, diving on and off a boat completing the Rottnest Chanel Swim off the West Coast of Australia; running the New York Marathon with Helen and a bunch of uni friends and then celebrating around Manhattan; and completing a charity bike ride from Devon to Edinburgh in memory of my mum Ruth, while being supported by friends and family all the way.”
Ben enjoys his role as chair of the GTC youth committee. He says: “I was asked to take over from Viv Gough at the end of last year. Other than having two boys in the junior section and seeing the benefits that the club has had on their lives, I feel I am completely unqualified for this role. Having said that, it’s a challenge that, until lockdown, I was really enjoying.
“The junior club continues to thrive and is supported by a fantastic group of parent volunteers. I am sure that the club will come back from the current shutdown stronger than ever.”
Training through lockdown – and afterwards
Lockdown has obviously affected everyone’s ability to train and to spend time with other club members. Ben has been running regularly and cycling home from work when possible.
He says: “Together with our boys, I have enjoyed a number of local bike rides around the quiet Glasgow roads and I have taken the opportunity to introduce nine-year-old Joel to cycling on the roads.
“On other occasions, the four of us have gone out together, with me and Helen running and the boys on their mountain bikes challenging each other to little tricks and jumps. Dawsholm Park, Garscube and the Kelvin walkway provide a brilliant loop for this.
“As a family, we have all been enjoying the Zoom sessions provided by head junior coach Billy Mitchell and another coach Nicola Dawson.”
Post lockdown, Ben’s hoped-for goals will no doubt mirror those of many others in the club. He says: “I don’t want to sound pompous or trite, but I’m hoping that the current situation is an opportunity for us all to reassess what is really important to us as individuals and as members of our communities.
“Health, happiness and our planet’s future seem to trump pretty much everything else at the moment.”
Taking inspiration from one of the country’s current heroes, Captain Tom Moore, one of Ben’s longer-term aspirations is “longevity and fitness”. He says: “I think 99 might be pushing it but if I can continue to enjoy swim, bike, run in some shape or form into my 70s I will be absolutely delighted.”
Ben’s tips for triathlon
Set yourself small achievable targets.
Even if you’re not competitive, have an idea of what your best times are for certain distances eg 5k run, 200m swim and your bike ride home. Knowing these and improving on them can give so much satisfaction and provide motivation to carry on and improve further.
Choose events based on making memories with friends and families rather than around specific performance targets.