YEP triathlon challenge: ‘Swimming is hard – really hard’

YEP reporter Jonny Brown is taking on an Olympic distance triathlon in aid of A Million for Maggie's. Picture by James Hardisty.
YEP reporter Jonny Brown is taking on an Olympic distance triathlon in aid of A Million for Maggie's. Picture by James Hardisty.
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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.

And with the Columbia Threadneedle World Triathlon Leeds now just a few 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 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.

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

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Swimming is hard – really hard.

Having signed up to take on my first ever Olympic distance triathlon, the reality of the whole swimming situation hit me pretty early on.

My first attempt at seeing how far I could swim led to me feeling like I was about to drown after three 25-metre lengths in Swarcliffe’s John Smeaton Leisure Centre.

Okay, maybe it wasn’t the best start considering I need to swim 1.5km followed by the small matter of a 41.5km bike ride and 10km run consecutively in a matter of weeks.

So it will come as no surprise to you that I’ve made swimming my priority.

It’s not something you ever really think about, but having been consumed by swimming for a couple of weeks I’ve realised that I’ve only ever swam front crawl to either avoiding drowning or to race somebody to the other side of the pool on holiday.

Avoiding drowning is definitely my number one concern when it comes to the swim so, on the advice of a friend, I logged straight on to Youtube and watched some open water swimming tutorials.

The videos properly introduced me to the idea of learning to pace my strokes, learning how and when to breathe and improving technique like pointing toes and rotating the body.

Since then I’ve revisited the pool a few times, mainly at my local Scott Hall Leisure Centre, and I do feel like I’m improving.

One of the biggest barriers so far has been trying not to be in ‘sprint mode’ all the time when I’m swimming but I am slowly learning that less is more.

Considering I need to be able to manage to swim the equivalent of 60 lengths, before a 41.5km swim and 10km, I still have a massive way to go to be ready for the triathlon.

I’ve got only a matter of weeks left to prepare but I’m doing all I can to get myself somewhere near ready.

My bike’s been fixed after being out of action for a while, I’ve been out for the odd run and I’m spending a couple of days a week pretty much teaching myself to swim.

Let’s just try not to talk about the fact that the actual race day swim will be in a freezing cold lake for now though...

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.

Any donations would be much appreciated.