Dyed-in-wool runner Martin MacDonald bought a nice bike recently. So he did the decent thing and took it to a race….

The Bolton Decathalon Duathlon was my first multi-sport event. It was a sprint distance duathalon of a 6k run, 28k bike and a 6k run.

The running bit I was confident about. I’m a seasoned runner, so I planned to put in two good running legs then just do the bike section as best I could.

Given that the event was sponsored by a high street sports shop, I assumed that it would be a mixed capability event. Nothing too serious. I was one of the first to turn up.

On racking my bike, I was allocated to the “alternative bike area”….. as I was using a cyclocross bike and not a road bike. I thought nothing of it, set everything up and sat back in the rapidly decreasing temperature of a Horwich morning.

After about half an hour, several branded vans rolled up, I just assumed they were part of the event providing services for the competitors. Nope, these were the teams. A few university teams and a couple of sponsored elites. All of them jumped out on their turbo trainers warming up with associated mechanics and physio people clucking around them.

This did sound warning bells for me and I started to feel massively out of my depth.  More and more highly branded and hairless people were hurriedly setting up all shapes and sizes of bikes, helmets and covering themselves in various components of spray on clothes. Then there was me shivering at the edge of the car park looking increasingly worried….. Having said all this, everyone was really friendly and people were offering advice to me left, right and centre on set ups and how to manage transition economically.

I had been put into the 5th wave, which after a bit of homework, I found to contain last year’s top 10 and the winner. So no pressure then?

The running section was not how I had imagined. I’d foreseen a fast loop along flat roads that would boost us all to a really fast first leg. I could not have been further from the truth. 6k in old money is just under 4 miles. It started out flat and straight, then went up, and up and up a bit more. The terrain ranged from farmland to boulder-strewn paths, lining a quarry. Stunning scenery, but hard work. I was definitely going to feel it in the calves the next day. Coming into T1, I was keeping my own. I’d taken quite a few people form the earlier waves. Confidence was high.


The bike loop was an out and back route along Belmont road. I’d been informed that the road was flat, so would produce an easy ride…. again quite far from the truth. There are less hills in the Andes.

I was averaging good speeds on the first half right down to the M65 round-a-bout. Coming back for the second half, I found the reason for good progress. What can only be described as an invisible wall of wind was stopping everyone from having a good time. You know it’s hard work when you have to stand up to cycle downhill!

The pain and frustration was clear on everyone I gave eye contact to. I passed one guy who was getting irate with the wind, turning the air blue. I’m talking real genuine anger! After the soul destroying slog back to T2, we were broken shells of the people who had left T1 still full of beans. You’ve never seen a collection of people so pleased to get off their bikes. My hands and feet were blocks of ice by this point, so it was quite a struggle to get gloves off and running shoes back on.

Out of T2 and on to the final run. I’m sure someone had built more hills into it. Running up through the hills and fields was probably the hardest running I’ve done in my life. Eventually, coming back out to Belmont road, the end was in sight. Over the line and I’ve never been so pleased to finish. I’d not felt that sense of achievement like that for many years. People often ask why we do this. For me it’s crossing that tiny line at the end. The harder the event, the greater the satisfaction.

I’ll definitely be swapping out a few shorter events for more of these! Results – out of 160 participants I came 83rd. Given I was a bit of an “Eddie the Eagle” at this event and massively outclassed by most of the field, I’ll have that any day of the week. Room for improvement, but didn’t embarrass myself.

Can’t wait for next year’s!