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Elspeth's Half Ironman Challenge

Elspeth crossing the Half Ironman finish line

Lizzi: Hey Elspeth! So great to chat to you after your Half Ironman Challenge - congratulations! First things first, what inspired you to do it?

The Half Ironman is made up of three challenges: a 1.2 mile swim, followed by a 56 mile bike ride finishing off with a 13.1 mile run - so it tests all your capabilities and stretches you on different levels from strength to endurance to stamina. When lockdown hit last year, I felt like I needed a challenge to keep me motivated and maintain my fitness levels. I’m big into hockey, but with it being cancelled I started to run instead and then the idea of the half Ironman was born! I used to be a keen swimmer, so I was looking forward to getting back into the pool as part of the training programme.

Speaking of which, what did the training schedule look like for you?

Elspeth in training for her Half Ironman

Training for a half Ironman is pretty tough - physically and mentally. I had a solid plan scheduled into my week but I found it hard to keep the momentum going as lockdown eased and promises of more of a social life made it harder to schedule in lots of hours of training. Taking on an Ironman means you need to be athletic at all three sports, so I used Sundays as a day of block training taking on two elements back to back, like a morning swim and bike ride on the Downs or a long run finishing with a dip in the pool.

I think one of the most challenging bits was finding the motivation to train after a long day of work - but I always felt better for it (even if it did take a lot of convincing to get out in the first place!). In April I actually got pretty ill and that put a stop to my training for a full-on ten days. It was a struggle to get back into running especially; I knew my fitness levels when it came to running would be the biggest battle as you really have to put in the mileage for the half-marathon. Although I did love the open-water swimming element, having a sausage bap afterwards was the best reward!

After all the months of training and hard work, how did you actually find it on race day?

Early morning walk from the seafront to the pier

The hardest part by far was the half-marathon run! When I was just 3km in (of the 21km), my body basically went into shock - I felt incredibly nauseous and developed goosebumps (bearing in mind it was 27 degrees and super sunny!). I told my Dad I was struggling but he responded by telling me I was nearly half way... far from it! Fortunately I made it through, powered on by lots of high-energy food and drink and my amazing team of supporters. By comparison, my favourite part was the early-morning walk from the seafront to the pier watching the sunrise and feeling all the nerves and excitement. I was most proud of my sea swim. It went really well and I finished just shy of 2 minutes behind the lady who came first overall. And of course, the feeling of finishing was great!

Elspeth queuing at the start of her 1.2 mile swim

Amazing. So what inspired you to support SeeKenya?

I’ve been at The King’s Church for many years and throughout that time I’ve seen SeeKenya grow and thrive - so I’ve always had a personal connection towards it. Sometimes it’s harder to know exactly where your money’s going with big charities, but with SeeKenya I always knew it was going exactly where it was needed. Hearing the stories of SeeKenya changing lives was inspiring and it was a pleasure to take on the half Ironman representing such a brilliant NGO.

We’re so thankful that you did. Just to wrap up, do you have any tips or advice for someone who’s looking to take on something similar?

Elspeth and other competitors swimming 1.2 miles

Sure. I would say take on a challenge whereby you really need to push yourself to train for it in the long run - it serves as great motivation! Remember that building your fitness looks more like a rollercoaster than an upward trajectory: in all likelihood you are going to encounter major dips in training but it’s learning to bounce back and build your resilience at the same time. Lastly, use it as an opportunity to fundraise! I found it a brilliant way to engage with people about my challenge - so find an organisation you really resonate with which will give you confidence when asking for donations. It will make all the difference to your training having a whole host of supporters behind you.

If you’ve been inspired by Elspeth’s story, you can look through some of our fundraising ideas here or get in touch with one of our team at to chat about taking on a challenge of your own!

Written by Lizzi Joyner


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