‘Triathlon… what’s that?’: Britain’s Brownlees chat to MM about the growing swim, bike, run phenomenon

Undisputedly UK sporting legends, the Brownlee brothers also have a very real claim to say that without their huge success triathlon might not be on the nation’s radar.

“When I started triathlon, I’d say to my friends ‘I’m doing a triathlon at the weekend’ and they’d be like ‘What’s that?’,” 2012 world champion Jonny told MM.

British triathlon has come a long way in the last 10 years thanks largely to the dominant duo – Alistair becoming the first athlete to defend the Olympic title at Rio 2016 and younger brother Jonny, when he’s not handing his brother a beating, often close behind him.

MM spoke to the pair last week at Soreen HQ in Stretford – promoting the 79-year-old brand’s Mancunian roots – to discuss the impact of the Brownlee Foundation, their plans for future success and tips on getting fit.

Both brothers explained their charity’s work with great enthusiasm, convinced of its value to the children who get involved.

“Last month in North London there were some kids who had never ever seen a swimming pool before,” said 27-year-old Jonny.

“There were kids who had never learned to ride a bike, but learned to ride a bike on the day.

“The foundation has played a big role in that with the kids in our area, getting them to know what triathlon is because they do a triathlon now.”

NO ANORAK: Alistair Brownlee (left) told MM that triathlon is no longer seen as a geeky, crazy sport 

Alistair also spoke proudly yet humbly about how an estimated 50,000 extra people got into triathlon after the 2012 London Olympics.

“The road we ride on almost every day is five times as busy with cyclists, and the local swimming pools are busier than ever, and the local running track is busier than ever.

“There’s a continual growth of people not only knowing what triathlon is, but people realising it’s not some kind of anorak, extreme sport that only mad people do on a weekend.

“It’s accessible to anyone.”

With more events planned for next year, the lads from Leeds want to bring the joy of triathlon to Manchester’s children.

“Hopefully next year we’ll have 12 events and get 10-12,000 kids doing triathlon,” said Jonny.

“We would love to have one round here [Manchester].”


The brothers provided some tips for Mancunians who want to get their fitness on track.

Alistair, 29, affirmed that planning is vital: “You’ve got to find out what schedule you’ve got.

“For example, if you have work on a Tuesday, that means you can go to a local swimming club or on a Friday you can go and meet a few mates for a run.”

His brother added: “Join a group. After work, if you don’t fancy training, but you’ve arranged to meet someone at 7, you’ve got to be there because you don’t want to let them down.”

For those who struggle pushing through the pain barrier, 2009 and 2011 world champion Alistair had a few words of advice.

“Break it down into small chunks. If you’re out running on the street you’ve got to think ‘I’m going to make it to the next lamp post’ or ‘I’m going to make it to the next corner’.”


With self-confessed disappointing seasons behind them both, Britain’s triathlon figureheads have suitably high aspirations for the year to come.

“I want to compete in the Commonwealth Games and try and win,” Jonny said of the April 4-15 event on Australia’s eastern Gold Coast.

“The last couple of years I’ve messed up the world championship series. I’ve been close but a long way away. So, for me, it’s to become world champion and Commonwealth champion.”

Two months after undergoing hip surgery, Alistair seemed calm despite some apparent recovery frustrations.

“It’s progressing a bit slowly. I can walk and swim. I’m doing more and more in the gym, loads of rehab every day and just starting to ride my bike again, which is really nice.”

FOOD FOR THOUGHT: Twice Olympic champion Alistair could yet make a tilt at three straight gold medals in Tokyo 2020 

“The Commonwealth Games is a big aim for me too. And I’d still like to do well in the longer distance stuff and, in the middle distance, have a good crack at the world championships.”

Regarding his chances of a third straight Olympic title at Tokyo 2020, he seemed hopeful.

“I think if I felt good and I felt like I could be as fast as I’ve ever been, I think I could definitely be going and trying to win again.”


Alistair provided an insight into who they get along with best.

“A lot of the other British guys and Richard Varga from Slovakia. We do a lot of training with Aaron Royle.

“There are a lot of other people like Javier Gomez, who we’ve got a lot of respect for, but I wouldn’t necessarily go out for a pint with him,” he said with a wry smile.

“In terms of our mutual respect and one day being able to sit down and have a chat, I think it would be really good.”

Related Articles