The road to triathlon isn’t always linear. Making your way to your first triathlon start line can take years. Whether that’s down to confidence, finding time to train… or simply because you didn’t realise that a triathlon was something you want to do.
When we watch elite sport, it can be easy to tell ourselves that it’s too late to get into something like triathlon. But in reality: it’s never too late. And one person who can vouch for that is Bradley Howard, a 37-year-old model and founder of The Padel Directive turned fitness influencer.
After spending his 20s living the party lifestyle, Bradley recently tried his hand at triathlon. And like so many of us, he’s now hooked. The party life has been swapped for the swim-bike-run life. We caught up with Bradley to find out how he got into triathlon, his big race plans for next year and his advice for any would-be triathletes who are hesitating to take the triathlon plunge.
Taking the plunge: “I was totally unprepared…”
Bradley stood on the start line of his first ever triathlon at Salford Sprint Triathlon in July 2022. “I was totally unprepared,” he reflected, “to the point where I had to rent a wetsuit on the day.”
“I remember getting into the water and about 20 minutes into the swim feeling the need to switch from front crawl to breaststroke. The bike and run felt ok but my transition times definitely needed work.”
For some, triathlon is a one and done affair. But for Bradley, completing that first sprint triathlon would be the start of a whole new multisport journey. “Soon after this I did the Sunderland Sprint Triathlon, with British Triathlon, and managed to take a few minutes off my time. I remember how cold the water was, it took my breath away.”
Hooked on multisport: “I guess I’ve always been chasing a high in life.”
In his early 20s, Bradley played football for FC United and continued to stay relatively fit and active after that with tennis and padel. But his 20s were still a far cry from the triathlon lifestyle he leads today.
“In my 20’s I owned an events company, which meant a lot of late nights and a few too many drinks. I didn’t realise the effect it was having on me until I stopped. Taking part in my first triathlon was quite an eye opener into what actually makes me happy, and what I need to do to get there.”
After completing two sprint triathlons in 2022, Bradley upped the anti in 2023 taking on a longer distance race in the form of The Roc triathlon in Wales. “[The Roc is] a completely unique course which sees you complete a 1.5km swim in the ocean, followed by a 50km cycle, a run up and down Snowdon, back on the bike for 50km, and then a 1km run to the finish.”
“I had a huge mix of emotions after this race, I’d never felt anything like it. It was this race that was the biggest turning point for me. I guess I’ve always been chasing a high in life and the endorphin rush that comes with doing a triathlon is one I wanted to make a regular feeling.”
That post-race high is probably something most triathletes can identify with – it’s what keeps us coming back for more.
“Being an ambassador for British Triathlon has opened a lot of doors for me…”
Bradley has big triathlon plans for 2024, with a full IRONMAN and the ITU Age Group World Championships set firmly in his sights. His is a story of not being afraid to chase your goals and do more of what makes you happy.
“I’m now an ambassador for British Triathlon, which has opened a lot of doors for me for next year. We’ve put together a race calendar with the end goal being a qualifying race for the World Championships in 2025. I’m also doing two 70.3 races and then a full IRONMAN in September.”
With ambitious plans in place, Bradley’s focus is now firmly on triathlon – with the late nights spent drinking in his 20s now switched for training and being as prepared as possible. But rather than daunted as the prospect of the challenges he’s set himself, Bradley is instead excited.
“I’m excited. I like routine and I like discipline – something I previously lacked with my old career. This time, triathlon is my main focus. I’ve stopped drinking – maybe just for now, maybe forever – and I’m working with a nutritionist and a coach, Tony Partington, to help prepare me as much as possible.”
“Just book it!” Advice to new and would-be triathletes
“Like many people [my weakest discipline] is swimming, because I’ve just not done it as a competitive sport before. I’m having swimming lessons now, which is really helping my speed and confidence in the water. I recommend to anyone, if they can, get a coach in the areas they feel most weak, as it really builds your confidence.
“My advice to someone who’s thinking about doing a triathlon would be: Just book it! Once it’s booked there’s no backing out. Give yourself a few months to train but remember it isn’t about times in the first one, it’s about getting to the end; it’s about having fun.”
If you’re not sure where to start with finding your first triathlon, Bradley recommends checking out a British Triathlon membership. “They have a whole range of different events and distances to choose from, with everything from duathlon and sprint distances to the long course – perfect for those new to triathlon and those with experience.”
Inspired by Bradley’s story? Take a look at the rest of our Beginners Triathlon section for everything you need to get started on your own triathlon journey.