Back in January we reported (http://www.220triathlon.com/news/trisport-epping-recreate-first-ever-tri) that TriSport Epping were to recreate the world’s first ever triathlon, held at Mission Bay, California, in 1974. Well, that time has now arrived and here’s the race report from Danny Ward at the club…
The early morning mist faded away as the sun blazed brightly. With nervous anticipation they lined up.
Ahead of them, six miles of running (longest continuous stretch: 2.8 miles), five miles of bike riding (all at once), and 500 yards of swimming (longest continuous stretch: 250 yards). Approximately two miles of running will be on the grass.
No, not Mission Bay 1974, but as a tribute to the organisers and 46 competitors who participated in the first ever triathlon, Tri-Sport Epping recreated the event in order to try and experience the origin of the sport.
With time penalties for cycling shoes, tri-bars and aero wheels, it was out with the new and in with the old. Toe-clips and trainers made a welcome return, along with down tube shifters and dual lever brakes. Someone even had a dynamo still on their bike!
Starting at Ongar Leisure Centre, the first run started on grass with a slight incline then went onto the road. After about a mile it was back onto grass. Reaching the turnaround point it was back to the leisure centre. The runners started to pick up the pace but the strong cyclists amongst them knew they had to try and stay with them as they would make little gains with such a short cycle ahead.
The reason for such a short bike leg was, as Race Organiser Jack Johnstone says, ”Our main concern was having enough entrants to make the event credible. I was afraid the inclusion of a bike leg might cut down on the field to the degree that no one would take the race seriously.” So a five-mile bike was all it was.
Although the weather was California-esque, a slight wind met everyone on the bike, gaining precious seconds for the stellar cyclists. Once the bike was over it was time for another run.
Slightly shorter this time, those who knew they weren’t the best of swimmers would have to hammer it to try and get some advantage.
Straight from the run into the swim. Woah! Have you tried to swim just after you’ve run?! One swim of 250m, a short run and then straight back in for another 250m. These are flat out efforts (or are meant to be anyway). You can’t swim like you would at the beginning of a triathlon, your body won’t let you. And then it was over, short, brutal but a lot of fun. Everyone felt elated but a little humbled thinking back to what it must have been like 36 years ago.
A lot has changed since that first triathlon on 25 September 1974, especially the format. There were no triathletes then, just people with an adventurous spirit who wanted to try a new sporting event. If it wasn’t for them, that new sport may have died on a cloudy evening in Mission Bay.
For Jack Johnstones recollections of that day see http://www.triathlonhistory.com/.