YEP reporter in fundraising challenge to take on Leeds' Olympic distance ITU World Triathlon Series stage

Hot on the heels of this year's Tour de Yorkshire, Leeds will take centre stage once more when the ITU World Triathlon Series makes its city debut.

Saturday, 7th May 2016, 11:00 am
Yorkshire Evening Post reporter Jonathan Brown.

And with the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds now just five weeks away, a member of the YEP team has bravely volunteered to give it a go.

Hours before the pros take on the Olympic distance event, which includes a 1.5km swim in Roundhay Park, a 41.5km bike ride from Roundhay to the city centre and a 10km run around the streets of Leeds, around 5,000 brave amateurs will do the same course.

Our lead triathlon correspondent Jonny Brown, an admittedly poor swimmer, has agreed to take up the challenge while raising funds for the A Million for Maggie’s campaign – a £1million fundraiser to help build a new Maggie’s cancer support centre at Leeds St James’s Hospital.

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With the help of expert advice, online swimming tutorials, Go Tri sessions and months of training aided by a Bodyline Premier membership to Leeds City Council leisure centres, Jonny is hoping to show that anyone can take up triathlon.

We will be publishing regular updates on his progress up until race day on Sunday June 12. You can also track his progress on Twitter at @JonnyBrownYEP and by searching ‘triathlon’ at

How hard can it be?

Reporter Jonathan Brown cycling up Buttertubs Pass in 2014. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

That was my initial reaction when the idea of taking on my first ever Olympic distance triathlon was suggested.

Once again I’ll be reporting on an international sporting spectacle that will be given a unique Yorkshire twist, so what better way to get to grips with this emerging sport than to show that anyone is capable of completing an ITU World Triathlon Series stage.

I wouldn’t be alone as one of around 5,000 amateurs dipping their toes in the water at Roundhay’s Waterloo Lake on Sunday June 12 – the same day the Brownlee brothers attempt to take on a series stage in their home city for the first time. Surely it couldn’t be that difficult.

I can swim, I’ve done the Leeds 10k a couple of times, I regularly play football in Leeds’ amateur leagues and I’ve become a cycling commuter since the Tour de France came to Yorkshire in 2014. ‘What’s the fuss all about?’, I thought.


I’ve even got form when it comes to taking on sporting challenges. Two years ago I went from cycling novice – having never ridden a road bike – to completing the 190km Leeds to Harrogate stage route of the 2014 Tour in a single day in aid of the YEP’s Half and Half Appeal.

One rather big obstacle makes triathlon very different and arguably tougher task for me, however - I’m not a strong swimmer, at all.

The thought of a 1.5km swim through Waterloo Lake, let alone the following 41.5km bike ride and 10km run, fills me with nothing but dread at the moment.

I started training with about two months to prepare, I’ve got myself a Bodyline Premier membership at Leeds City Council leisure centres in a bid to paddle myself into some sort of shape.

Reporter Jonathan Brown cycling up Buttertubs Pass in 2014. Picture by Jonathan Gawthorpe.

I’ll also be making the most of British Triathlon-backed free Go Tri taster sessions at council leisure centres, saddling up for weekend and midweek bike rides and runs and seeking advice from the experts to give me a fighting chance.

So fitness-wise where am I at? I’m pretty fit, I thought, before I got in the pool. After only managing about three consecutive lengths in the warm waters of The John Smeaton Leisure Centre’s 25-metre-long pool after my first go, the scale of the challenge seemed pretty clear – especially when you consider I’ve got to swim 20-times that distance in a freezing cold lake! Oh, and then there’s the small matter of that bike ride and run straight after.

With pun entirely intended, this triathlon challenge is going to be sink or swim for me.

How hard can it be? What was I thinking?

Why I’m supporting A Million for Maggie’s

Cancer is a terrible disease that in some way affects us all.

Like millions of others, my family was struck by cancer a couple of years ago. Both my mum and my uncle – her twin brother – lost their lives to advanced cancer within a few months of each other.

My family’s story is by no means extraordinary but, having seen my loved ones go through the worst of times, I hope my fundraising triathlon challenge will make a difference to others.

I am taking on a worryingly tough Olympic distance triathlon with around 5,000 amateurs on Sunday June 12 as part of the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds weekend.

The event includes a 1.5km open water swim through Roundhay’s Waterloo Lake, a 41.5km bike ride from Roundhay to Leeds city centre and a 10km run through the city.

The reason I’ve chosen to support the Maggie’s charity through my fundraising is because of my personal experiences of seeing loved ones, particularly my mum, battle with cancer.

She was an incredibly brave and dignified woman despite the fact that she struggled every day with secondary breast cancer and had, in my view, limited support outside of hospital.

Maggie’s is an independent charity which runs more than a dozen beautiful cancer support centres yards from cancer units at major hospitals across the country.

The charity has recently teamed up with the YEP for the A Million for Maggie’s campaign to make dreams of a £5million Maggie’s Yorkshire centre, which would be based at Leeds St James’s Hospital, a reality.

I’ve actually visited their Newcastle centre and seen the stunning architecture, home-from-home atmosphere and the free practical, social and emotional support they offer for myself.

As a result, I’m more than happy to do my best to make a small contribution to the A Million for Maggie’s appeal and help to give people with cancer in Yorkshire in years to come the support I wish my mum could have had.