Helen Turton Interview
by David Gilbank
As far as typical pub debates go,one of the favourites among passionate sports fans is ‘what’s the hardest sport in the world?’
Of course, many in West Yorkshire would state categorically that Rugby League is the hardest of them all, although Canadians would argue that Ice Hockey players need to be as blood-thirsty as they are physically fit. Yet strangely enough, the most gruelling and downright near-death sport there is – and often completely forgotten when it comes to this particular subject of favoured pub banter – has to be the Ironman event.
Athletes with almost super-human endurance and obsessive determination are required to swim for two and a half miles. They then go on a 112-mile bike race. Before, almost unbelievably, they run a full marathon – a 26.2-mile footrace. Oh, don’t forget that every leg is conducted at breakneck speed, in case you thought it was run at a leisurely pace.
Yet, for Helen Turton her recent excellent performances in this event are especially impressive. She only learned to swim four-years ago, and had never ridden a bike before! A former accomplished middle-distance runner, Helen changed sports after her imagination was fired by an Ironman event she saw while on holiday in Lanzarote.
“I was getting a bit bored with simply running. When I saw an Ironman event for the first time I was blown away by what I saw. The athletes were so tough. The way they ran, and swam and rode their bikes. I decided to take it up. Even though I couldn’t swim or ride a bike.”
On her return to England, Helen immediately went to work taking up swimming lessons and learning the art of bike riding.
“It was the steepest of learning curves. Yet, today, four years later I’m not only competing in the Ironman, I’m finishing with the best of them!”
Not half. Last year, Helen ran an impressive time of 11 hours 57 at the prestigious Austrian event. This year in Germany she shaved a massive 1 hour 4 minutes off the Austrian time. Next stop sees her going back to where it all began.
“This year my goal is to qualify for the world championships in Hawaii. But first I have to go to Lanzarote to qualify. It’s the same event that inspired me to get in to the Ironman in the first place.”
Even if she somehow doesn’t qualify for Hawaii this year, everyone in West Yorkshire can’t fail to be inspired by a former non-swimmer and non-cyclist who now, just four years later, competes with the best of them in one of the toughest sports in the world!