Julian Jenkinson: a legend of the British tri scene remembered

Tragic news has reached 220 Towers that Julian Jenkinson, one of the true greats of UK triathlon, has passed away aged 49 after suffering a heart attack while out riding.

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Julian was a formidable athlete, breaking and holding British triathlon records back in the 1990s, and forging a path for British athletes at Ironman Hawaii. 

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“He was not just a formidable cyclist but an all round swimmer, cyclist and runner and always had a smile and time to talk before or after he’d raced. I will miss him” says Mark Kleanthous, another stalwart of the UK tri scene.

Alongside his successful property developing, Julian was also instrumental in the creation of the Southampton Tri Club, with his amusing, insightful and colourful columns for 220 during the nineties entertaining our readers for many seasons. Below are some of Julian’s first words for 220 back in 1989, where he details his newfound love of multisport.

‘The 1989 Swindon Biathlon was my first-ever duathlon after my first season in triathlon. I remember spotting Richard Hobson who was the “star” and thinking he was twice my size and appeared to have all the kit. I rode in trainers. I recall an indoor transition and quite a buzz about the place. Coming from cross country running this felt like the big time; people watching and prizes!

‘I was completely unknown and ran with Hobbo. I beat him out of transition because of my trainers. I think it was an out and back course and I got caught on the way home, a few other runner types were quickly over hauled; a very young Julian Bunn and this guy called [Mike] Trees who had run a 4min mile or nearly. Hobbo led off bike and I took second. It was a massive surprise to me and everybody there. I loved it.

‘Why did I love it? Atmosphere, Exciting, Buzz, Cool. I was young cocky student and the girls and beer and everything was perfect. I did number two at Leicester meeting Dave Bellingham – mad as a hatter. I had almost learned to cycle and won the race from Steve Meads. Never won much at running, got the bug now, found something that I was half decent at.’

And half decent at multisport Julian would prove to be. He’d go on to win the UK Iron-distance classic The Longest Day on numerous occasions, and would hold the British Iron-distance record for 13 years after his 8:15:21 finish at 1995’s European Iron-Distance Championships in Detern. A year later, he recorded the then fastest British time at Ironman Hawaii after a 8:54:53 minute finish on the lava fields of Kona.

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Look out for more tributes to Julian later this week. 220’s thoughts are with his wife, family, friends and the countless athletes he inspired in triathlon.