Tri for Bestival: a success?

With Elton John awaiting, would Steven Diffey make it in his quest to swim, bike and run to the Isle of Wight?


It was an early start. I was out of bed for 2am and feeling surprisingly focused, despite only having been able to sleep for less than three hours. After a swift double espresso and breakfast, I slipped into my gorgeous pink tri-suit and rolled into the London night with the goal of getting to the Solent for 9am.

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Dad trailed me in his car, lighting the road ahead with his headlights and imprinting my silhouette against the darkness. Mum had the just-as-important job of handing me drinks and nutrition. With their support was able to maintain a steady 28km/h and felt strong. Once into the Surrey the temperature dropped and my toes grew numb. As we approached Winchester however the sun began to rise along with my spirit. It was expected to be a warm day.

After six hours of cycling I cruised into Milford on Sea towards the end of bike leg at Keyhaven Yacht Club, who had kindly arranged a safety crew and RIB for the next phase. I fell to the ground and lay there, enjoying the stillness.

The reason for such an early start was the need to be in the Solent for slack-tide, which on that particular day was 10:30am – 11:30am. Fortunately the ride was trouble-free, so after a briefing with the support crew and a cup of tea, I put my trainers on and jogged to the start of the swim at Hurst Castle, positioned at the end of a 1.5 miles long shingle spit.

I was met at Hurst Castle by my family and safety support crew. As I squeezed my sweaty body into my wetsuit a man approached me. “We’re here to support you” he said, pointing to a group of eight. I couldn’t believe it. People had actually heard about the challenge. I stepped into the water with even more determination.

Reduced to arm propulsion

As soon as I dived in all of the anxious thoughts that had built up over the last months practically disappeared. I had been blessed with crystal clear water that was pristinely flat as a mirror, no wind and a blue sky. Cramp did take the use of my legs away though, so I was reduced to arm propulsion.

The tide pushing out of Colwell Bay was struggle as I approached land. When I could finally stand I must have looked like I’d won gold in the pool at the Olympics. I was ecstatic and another crowd of supporters welcomed me onto the island. The most complicated part of the challenge was over.

Next came the run. I attached my Elton John sunglasses and began the 23 km of undulating, windy country roads. The temperature was up to 27°C and I was growing fatigued. It was a hard slog. My second support car which included my sister and her husband did a fantastic job of defending me against the passing traffic and encouraging me along.

Outside Newport we somehow took a wrong turn that diverted me along the high street. The odd looks were constant. “You dressed like that for a dare” one man said jovially. “No, Make a Wish Foundation”.

Unique method

Out of Newport there’s a near-continuous climb to the festival site, that seemed to go on forever. It was my 6th time in attendance, but I’d never been this excited for my arrival. I turned into the carpark, passed the main entrance, ran down the pathway and found myself faced with a view over the whole site. It was over. My sister handed me the personalised medal she had made. I felt happier at that point than any race I’d completed.

Throughout the weekend I enjoyed the praise of having been the first person to get there by my unique method. The tri-suit went down well and I hopefully encouraged a few to try the attempt themselves next year.

One week on I’ve suddenly found myself with a massive void that was filled the constant planning and training, but also a pleasing sense of achievement at completing it and raising a load of cash that’ll go towards granting magical wishes for children with life-threatening illnesses.

What’s next? If anyone’s got ideas, let me know. Or of anyone want to do something similar, get in touch.

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I’m still collecting donations. They can be submitted on the JustGiving page. More photos and videos on the Facebook page.