How many of us had a childhood dream that remained a childhood dream? It was a nice to think about sometimes but never quite became a reality. Do you now spend your evenings thinking what could have been? Was it possible? What could I have done differently? For me, those questions have been in the back of my mind throughout my twenties (a constant itch), and now push has come to shove, I’ve taken the leap and I am going to give it my all. So in years to come, I won’t be looking back and thinking “what could have been”… I will instead be content that I’ve at least given it a go.
My childhood dream… it’s no secret… I always wanted to be a professional athlete. What sport? In my early early years, any sport or every sport, I loved them all. But it was when I first went to secondary school that I found rugby. I remember it now – Year 7 PE, wearing a big baggy green rugby jersey on a cold Lake District autumn day. The rugby field was boggy, the grass was long, I was cold to my bones, but as soon as I got a rugby ball in my hands, the open field in front of me and try line in sight, I was hooked! That was it for me, there was no looking back from that point. I was then training/ playing rugby 5 to 6 times per week and it was clear in my head that I wanted to be a professional rugby player.
The next 6 years were all about rugby – playing for my school, town and county team. I was by no means the best player on the team. In fact many of my ex team mates are currently professional rugby players. However, I had the love for the sport and the determination to succeed. But then at 17 years old, a rugby ending injury hit me. During a mid season rugby game, I was tackled from the side and my knee buckled and dislocated, causing full tears to two ligaments in my knee. Now this should not have been the end of rugby for me but with misdiagnosis for years and years, it was never meant to be. One doctor said “its just a sprain”, another would say “go through the physiotherapy and it will heal.” None of these causes of action were correct. It wasn’t until 3 years later that a doctor finally gave me an MRI scan to confirm the extent of my injury, at which point I had ACL reconstruction surgery. But it was too little too late, my opportunity had gone and there was no way back after 3 years out of the sport.
So what next? Give up? Well for many years the answer was yes. I went through my twenties pursuing other careers in sport… Lifeguard, Physical Education Teacher, Sports Coach, Sports Manager and I loved it but the itch was still there in the back of my mind… Could I make it as a professional athlete if I really gave it a go?
After my injury, I looked for other sports that I could do without the risk of re-injuring my knee and I found triathlon. I come from a lifeguard background and always enjoyed biking and running, so triathlon came naturally to me. But it wasn’t until I moved to Singapore that I really started training for triathlon properly. I joined a triathlon club, I started competing regularly and performing well.
From that point my training went from 2/3 days per week to 6/7 days per week. My training life became my social life. My leisurely reading became triathlon equipment/ training/ race/ competitor research. Weekends away became triathlon training camps and holidays became race weeks away. It was fair to say, triathlon was now an integral part of my life and I loved every second of it. Soon doing well in local races wasn’t enough and the hunt to qualify for the Ironman 70.3 World Championships became my focus. Vietnam Ironman 70.3 Asia Pacific Championship race was the game changer for me. Months of gruelling training had all come down to this race to qualify for the World Champs. Race day came, all the best athletes in Asia were there, many of my friends were either competing or watching, the atmosphere was set, all I had to do now was perform. With a choppy swim, fast and frantic bike and melting hot run, it was one of the toughest races I had competed in. Still, at the end, I wasn’t 100% sure I had done enough to qualify. Then I moment came when they announced the names at the qualification ceremony… sheer elation!
I arrived in Nice France a week early to prepare for the Ironman 70.3 World Championship. The stage was set already, all the best athletes were there either swimming in the Mediterranean Sea , biking up the Col De Vence or running up and down the promenade. Imagine if you could make a life of this, I was thinking. Race weekend came and the professional field blew me away with their sheer speed up and down the mountain. Then the amateurs were in a different league to me. It was fair to say that I was a small fish in a big pond. I wasn’t the back of the pack but I certainly wasn’t competing for podiums at this level. But this didn’t deter me, it only motivated me to do better, be better. It reignited the fire in me to chase my childhood dream again.
And the ‘One Year To Go Pro’ journey was born. I am at a point in my life where I still think I have the opportunity to chase my dream of becoming a professional triathlete. Even If I don’t make it, I won’t look back with regret and I will have fun along the way doing what I love day in day out!
Follow mine and Sophie’s #OneYearToGoPro journey daily on instagram:
Richard – @tri2richard
Sophie – @tri2sophie
Tri2 – @tri2org