Book Review: Swim, Bike, Swim - Alistair & Jonathan Brownlee
Anyone who visited the UK during the Summer of 2012 will have seen how the country went crazy for the London Olympics. I am a big sports fan but even those who are less keen were snapping up tickets to see everything from archery to weightlifting. But with some venues over subscribed well above capacity and tickets being like gold dust, some of the most popular events were those that had areas of open viewing. Crowds flocked the streets for the marathon, cycling road races and in one corner of London, the Triathlon. What made it even better for the waiting crowds was that Team GB had not just one, but two genuine medal contenders, and they were brothers from a small village in Yorkshire.
If you rewind about 10yrs ago, Triathlon was still very much a minority sport. At previous Olympics there had almost always been one or two Brits in the top 20 but we hadn't yet got close to a medal. However, perhaps as a side effect of Britsh cycling's revival, it was definitely a sport on the up and having two of the worlds best was always going to help. Indeed now I would imagine most people have at least heard of the event, if not know of someone who has competed in one.
7 August 2012
Competing at a home Olympics brought both massive support and also pressure to our home athletes, especially those medal prospects. Some crumbled under the pressure but others shone and fortunately Alistair Brownlee (the older brother) who had been fighting injury all year, was of the later group. As he crossed the line with a Union Jack draped over his shoulders it kept up the great games we as a nation were having. 31 seconds later younger brother Jonny crossed to take Bronze, sandwiching the Spanish athlete Javier Gomez. Suddenly, any fame the brothers already had was magnified several times over as their story of the brothers was a perfect fairy tale.
Triathlon For Beginners
The Olympic distance Triathlon comprises a 1.5km swim, a 40km cycle, finished off by a 10km run.
Shorter sprints are often held over distances of 750m Swim/20km Bike/5km Run and there are longer races known as half and full ironmans. A full ironman is a 3.8km swim, 180.2km bike and then run a full Marathon!
Swim, Bike, Run: Our Triathlon Story
This book was released in June 2013 and covers the brothers experiences up until the end of the 2012 season when Jonny became World Champion to sit alongside his brothers Olympic Gold. It follows them from childhood as they grew up just two years apart, always competing with each other. However, despite the competition, they remained immensely close, still sharing the same house at the time of London 2012 near where they had grown up. The format is one where the text bounces back between the two of them and often feels like you are sat in the room with them as they reminisce and on occasion disagree with events from their past.
I sometimes wondered how they were still so close when the rivalries threatened to blow over but then at the same time, I could see similarities between myself and my own brother. Granted there is a larger age gap (6yrs vs the Brownlee's 2yrs) and we have never got to the top of any sport but as he started to develop, the competition between us on runs etc. would become immense. When this gets to the levels of World's best, this can only intensify and they are both honest about occasional feelings of resentment to the other when things have gone the others way. However, at the same time you see the pride in how they talk, being able to always say how they love being able to train day in, day out with the Olympic/World champion, an immediate guideline to your fitness and form. They also talk of how it makes it easier to justify having fish and chips for dinner when you've seen the World Champion just do the same. It all reminds me of one of my favourite interviews with the two that, I have shared from YouTube above and I recommend you take the minute to view.
One of the other things I took away from reading the book is how the brothers can almost be Jekyll and Hyde characters. Whenever you see them on TV they always come across as nice, friendly, down to earth lads. Yet they talk of being in the race, getting down and dirty with the rest of the pack, shouting and screaming at people who aren't pulling their weight. They also talk through the almost anti-climatic feeling of the Olympics and resentment of people's interest in their success. At first you think this sounds over the top but as you sit back you can see that it must be strange training your whole life for one thing, and when it happens, it does feel like any other race win. However, with the intensity of interest, your lives will never be the same again.
If you have enjoyed this review or remember the exploits of the Brownlee brothers then I would really recommend buying and reading this book!
This book is not just biographical though. They have also interspersed training tips and suggestions for those who would like to compete in triathlons themselves. To be honest doing a triathlon does sit quite high on my personal "Bucket List" and having read this book I am now even more eager to compete in one, I just need to get fitness levels where they need to be as unfortunately my strongest discipline, the swim, is the least advantageous for a good result!
I would really recommend this book to anyone interested in triathlon, or sport in general as it is an honest insight in to the life of an elite athlete and shows that with hard work, you can make it, even if your training gym is the beauty and weather of Yorkshire.
If like me you are UK based then please find the book here at Amazon UK.
If you have read this book, have done Triathlons yourself or just want to say hi then please leave a comment below!
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