Martyn Brunt’s guide to the festive season

December can be a tricky month for a triathlete with temptations at every turn. But 220 columnist Brunty has some simple advice… just enjoy it!


Christmas is coming and Brunty’s getting fat. Yes, it’s that time of year that triathletes love and dread the most, with the potential for exciting, gift-wrapped carbon componentry appearing under your Christmas tree offset by the fact that you’ll put on a stone and ruin your PBs for the season ahead.


The festive season is a notoriously tricky time for triathletes because we’re all wracked by inner turmoil caused by the eternal, ‘I’ve trained hard all year and deserve to let loose’ vs ‘If I don’t keep training every day my mates will all beat me’ conflict.

I was watching a dog training class not long ago and there was a test called ‘Temptation Alley’ where a dog had to run back to its owner straight past a load of toys and treats.

Apart from thinking this was a spectacularly cruel way to treat man’s best friend, I thought ‘This is basically me at Christmas’ – trying to stay on the straight and narrow while people put Yule logs, boxes of Celebrations and a Stollen the size of a forearm in my path.

Beware the tri-club Christmas dinner

One of the places you’ll see this inner conflict at its sharpest is at tri- club Christmas dinners.

Allegedly a celebration of the year’s achievements and a chance to let your hair down among like-minded weirdos, club Christmas parties are in fact a test of your resolve, because some sad, spiteful git always organises a club bike ride the following morning leaving you with a choice to make – do you?:

A – Get hammered and forget the bike ride, thus missing out on an obviously vital training session and showing your teammates/rivals your determination is weaker than theirs.

B – Stay sober and go on the bike ride, thus showing your teammates/rivals you’re a spectacular dullard.

C – Get drunk AND go on the bike ride, establishing yourself as a club legend but at the cost of enduring a ride of pure torture as you sweat several litres of cheap plonk straight out of your clammy, pounding forehead.

Some years ago I entered the Stockholm Marathon at 2:30am while ‘refreshed’ after a Christmas party

Vulnerablity to race organisers

Christmas drinkypoos is another hazardous area for the unwary triathlete, and not just because we generally can’t take much of it.

Drink does strange things to triathletes, making us vulnerable to cunning marketing from race organisers who target us when our powers are weak.

Long-time readers may remember that some years ago I entered the Stockholm Marathon at 2:30am while ‘refreshed’ after a Christmas party.

And I forgot that it was on the same day as my wife’s birthday, leading to me inviting her to a romantic weekend in Sweden without telling her I was disappearing off for four hours on her special day, which went down about as well as a health minister in a jungle.

Proving that I’m nothing if not consistent, last week I blearily awoke the morning after a club dinner to a series of emails sent to my inbox at 2:45am thanking me for entering Reykjavik Marathon 2023.

Consider your gift requests 

As if all that wasn’t enough, there’s also the minefield of presents to negotiate. Obviously you want something tri-related but you don’t want to ask for something too shiny and lightweight because it will invariably come with an eye-watering price tag that will leave your present-buyers thinking you’re a greedy ****.

In my experience it’s much safer to opt for low-value but useful accessories. For example, this year all I’ve asked for from Mrs B is a new neck buff because I’m tired of reacquainting my nose with whatever I last burped into my current one every time I pull it over my face.

Give yourself a break

Wherever you are and whatever you’re up to, I hope you have a happy and peaceful holiday. And take a tip from a triathlete now into his third decade of racing – give yourselves a break this festive season, let your hair down and enjoy yourselves.

Eat, drink and be merry, and don’t fret if you don’t set that 5km PB at your Christmas parkrun.

The important thing is that you’re fit, fresh and raring to go for the start of the year – because there’ll be loads of inexperienced joggers and cyclists hitting the roads, which means a whole new audience of mere mortals for you to show off your superhero levels of triathlon fitness to!


Illustration: Daniel Seex