If spring and autumn are the peak seasons for marathon running, then summer is the natural home for triathlon. Regular contributor Chris Broadbent tells us why ...
The unpredictable British weather aside, the kinder summer conditions lend themselves better to open water swims and mass road cycling and - subsequently - to multi-sport events.
Triathlon has long been known as the UK's fastest growing sport, but it is fair to say that the younger sibling in the endurance family has really come of age in recent years. Through the growing success of the Virgin Active London Triathlon over the last decade, the sport has its iconic mass participation event. And in the Brownlee brothers, the sport has two household names and triathlon's own answer to Mo Farah and Paula Radcliffe.
Where it certainly does have the edge on running is in retail. Runners love their gadgets, but triathletes are in a different league. With two different disciplines to bring into the equation, it is fertile territory for fresh technology and innovations to gain that extra edge. Anyone who has seen the transition area during London Triathlon weekend at London Excel Centre will testify as to the sheer scale of hi-tech equipment poised and ready to go. It is a sea of gleaming chrome and graphite; an expensive expanse of aerodynamism. It is little wonder that virtually every running outlet now houses its own triathlon section.
Indeed there are now many retailers dedicated solely to triathlon, both online and on the high street. Triathlon has grown widely in the UK and so too has its profitability. The sport does tend to attract a rather affluent crowd, but you don't have to be loaded to give it a go. I took on my first triathlon eight years ago with a reliable old racer and a second hand surfing wetsuit bought on eBay.
For a runner, a triathlon can be a refreshing experience. Although I would still consider myself a runner ahead of being a triathlete, I have always enjoyed my forays into the sport. Sometimes though, the repetition of running training and the constant chase for PBs over familiar distances can be a bit of a grind. A sideways step into triathlon can really breathe fresh life into your training.
As low-impact exercises, there is less risk of injury cycling and swimming, yet you can actually increase your overall fitness by fitting in more sessions. Your swimming session can be a recovery from the previous day's running, giving your legs a rest whilst still getting a damn good good cardio work-out.
As a runner, you can also race triathlons relatively pressure free. If it is not where your real ambitions lie, you can simply enjoy the event. Sure you want to do your best, but would any particular time have as much significance to you as a sub-40 10k or a sub3 hr marathon?
In my first triathlon, it was also a shock that I clocked a 38 minute 10k on the running discipline. It was my best ever time at the distance up to that point. Without realising it, I had been attacking the training with fresh gusto and the benefits were obvious.
So if you find yourself seeking a fresh challenge this year, try a triathlon this summer. Not only could it add renewed enthusiasm to your training, whisper it, but it could even make you fitter and faster.