To take part in a triathlon you have to be pretty fit, so to take up the sport late in life and beat off stiff competition from some of the top athletes in the world is no mean feat
Forty six year old Joe Duckworth from Chorley, comes from a running background. He was a middle-distance runner and represented Lancashire and Great Britain as a school boy. However late on in his school years, he lost his way due to losing his biggest supporter, his father, in a work accident and as he says: “Without him the whole thing seemed pointless.”
After that Joe just kept fit going to the gym, circuit training and doing some running, but nothing with any type of structure. In 2002 when he was 31 he took up a job as an airfield firefighter and began to run again, only to find that he was constantly getting injured. Then in 2009 he went to watch a friend compete in Ironman UK in Bolton, and after being totally inspired by his efforts, he got the bug for triathlons and has never looked back.
Long distance triathlons are one of the toughest one-day sporting challenges. Often called ‘ironman’ or ‘140.6’, the 140.6 refers to the total distance covered in miles – a 2.4-mile swim (3.9km), a 112-mile bike ride (180km), and a marathon 26.2-mile run (42.2km) to finish.
The format remains the same as when it was first founded in 1978, and there are around 30 officially sanctioned Ironman races organised by the World Triathlon Corporation (WTC). This is Joe’s speciality.
He said: “I get injured a lot less with the training required for the Ironman, even though I train for a marathon after swimming 2.4 miles and riding 112 miles. Unknowingly I had already been in training for the bike for 12 years by cycling the 40-mile round trip to work and back. Believe it or not I don’t do a great deal of running, but the running I do is of a high quality and very specific to the event, with my preferred distances being 70.3 (half Ironman) and full Ironman distance triathlons.”
He competes in local events on an annual basis. These are mainly run by Marc Laithwaite and the fantastic people at Epic Events. Without Marc and his team there would be fewer events in the north west. Joe has not only travelled all over the country racing to a high level but also the world, competing in races in Kona Hawaii at the Ironman World Championships achieving a race time of 10 hours and 8 minutes, Las Vegas at the Ironman 70.3 World Championships and Ironman events in Mexico and Germany to name but a few.
“From a training point of view, we are really lucky with the terrain we have in Lancashire. I train a lot on the fells, Healy Nab and Great Hill being my regular haunts when running. A lot of the cycling is also done locally. For the hills I tend to travel to the Trough O’ Bowland and around Darwen and if we want an easy day in the saddle, then the flat rides are done in the Southport area. I’m also a member of David Lloyd gym in Chorley and spend countless hours in the gym and pool.”
This season has been a real breakthrough for Joe, who has been setting new personal best times right from the start.
Two highlights have been his win at the Lakesman long course triathlon in Keswick, where he set a number of personal bests during the race and in September he collected a silver medal at the ETU European Championships in Almere in the Netherlands in the 45/49 age category with an overall time of 9 hours and 23 minutes, and a new marathon personal best time of 3 hours, 2 minutes and 40 seconds.
Joe is also a British Triathlon level two coach and is looking to do a level two diploma in the new year. He is already planning an exciting 2018 season with his main goal being to qualify for the Ironman World Championships in Hawaii for the fifth time. His chosen race is the Ironman European Championships in Frankfurt Germany, this will be an extremely difficult place to qualify as only four athletes will qualify in his age category out of up to 500 competitors.
But it doesn’t stop there, Joe is also busy setting up his own coaching business Limitless Triathlon Coaching, which will be launched in the next few months and he is in talks with kit company Raceskin to design his own bespoke race kit.
“I just want to say, never give up on what you want to do. You might have setbacks along the way, but things happen for a reason and you can learn from them. I certainly didn’t think I would be competing and winning triathlons approaching 50.”