In a previous article of mine, I stated that with the exception of the annual bed-push down St George’s Road, Kemp Town rarely plays host to major sporting events. It turns out I was wrong. On Sunday 16th September, Madeira Drive was the scene of the 2007 Brighton Triathlon, an endurance event comprising swimming, cycling and running. As someone who used to get out of breath eating a Marathon, never mind running one, I declined the opportunity to take part, in favour of watching from the sidelines, within easy reach of the café.
The event featured nine different categories, covering all ages, distances and levels of experience, but the day kicked off with the Olympic Triathlon for 20 to 29-year-old men. Dozens of blokes with the kind of bodies my girlfriend wishes I had, all lined up on the beach in wetsuits and swimming hats, before someone sounded a horn, and like a mad scramble of suicidal lemmings, they all ran into the sea. Anyone would think they’d spotted Sir Menzies Campbell coming up behind them with a conference agenda.
That first category produced the swim of the day from Kyle Kearey, who wiped the ocean floor with his rivals and emerged onto the beach having completed the 1500m course in a time of 20:31. I don’t think I could have walked it that fast. He was so far ahead of the rest that I wondered if he had a jet-ski hidden under his wetsuit.
It was another four minutes before anyone else made it back onto dry land, by which time Kyle had completed the short sprint across the pebbles to the transition area, where he’d picked up his bike, swapped his wetsuit for a cycle helmet, and run out onto Madeira Drive in his bare feet, with his shoes stuck to the pedals.
Having made it that far, he and the other competitors then faced a bike ride of 40km (yes, that's all) up and down Madeira Drive, between the pier and Black Rock, while people like me tried to run across the road in front of them to get to the toilets. Anyone who survived that, then simply had to hop off their bike and embark on a relaxing 10km run back and forth along the promenade in their soggy underwear.
If you think that all sounds a little, well, tiring, then you’d be right. But it didn’t stop more than four hundred people taking part, both male and female, despite the fact that the only prizes on offer at the finish line appeared to be a free banana and a cup of water. As it turned out, Kyle Kearey’s super-swim was only enough to earn him sixth place overall, having been overtaken on the final run by a handful of rivals. First prize (or top banana) went to Nick Malynn, who completed the Olympic Triathlon in less than two and a quarter hours. It takes me that long just to walk into town and back.
Anyway, whilst I'm enormously impressed by anyone who can swim a mile, cycle a marathon, and still have enough energy left to run ten kilometres into a headwind, it’s hard not to feel that each and every one of them must have had a bit of a screw loose. They could have been sitting at home with their feet up in front of the Grand Prix, not picking seaweed from between their toes whilst trying to mount a racing bike. I was tired just watching them. In fact, having stood on the beach all morning, gone home for lunch, and then walked back down there for an hour to cheer on the stragglers, I was just about ready for a full body massage and an early night. I dread to think how the competitors felt.
Personally I can think of better ways to spend a Sunday. Most of them involving Yorkshire puddings and gravy. But I think the reason they all do it was summed up nicely on the back of the t-shirts worn by representatives of Urbanrace, the company who organised the event. As their slogan put it:
'Swim With The Endorphins'
I do love a good pun. Although personally I get my endorphins from chocolate.