Charles tells Jersey another story of winning

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Charles tells Jersey another story of winning a big middle-distance
In the last five miles my legs were screaming at me to stop and I was praying I wouldn’t cramp up,” admits Lucy Charles, Britain’s new iron lady, as she reflects on her shock podium finish in her first Ironman World Championship in Kona, Hawaii, last week. “I kept willing my body to keep fighting that little bit longer, kept telling it ‘you can do this; just think about getting to the next aid station, then the next’ until the finish line finally arrived.”

At that moment Charles, a 24-year-old from Essex, lifted her arms to the sky and roared in delight – the pain and strain of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a 26.2-mile run in 30C heat giving way to dizzying exhilaration. Few had expected her to be a contender. Instead she led for much of the race and shattered her personal best to finish in 8hr 59min 48sec. Charles eventually came second to Switzerland’s Daniella Ryf, who retained Griffin Reinhart Womens Jersey the title she won in 2015 and 2016.

What makes Charles’ story so extraordinary is that until 2014 she had never ridden a racing bike. Instead her goal was to compete for Britain in the Olympics as a swimmer. She was not far away either. Not only was she talented enough to compete in the 800m trials for London 2012 alongside Rebecca Adlington but she also beat Keri-Anne Payne, who was chosen for the 10km open-water swim in London ahead of her, in the Great North swim a month before the Games.
Missing out on London 2012 disheartened me. It made me want to find something different to do
“The open-water swim was my best chance of making it,” she says. “There was a few other girls with a chance in the squad but we were all second best to Keri-Anne. It meant none of us got our shot of getting on the London 2012 team, which was a shame,” she says, the frustration evident.
“It disheartened me. I thought: ‘What’s the likelihood that in four years’ time the exact same thing is going to happen?’ It made me want to find something different to do.” That led Charles to enter an ironman event with her partner Reece Barclay on a whim, even though her knowledge of the event was almost non-existent.
“When I signed up to do my first one in 2014 I said to myself, ‘I’ve got a mountain bike, I can do it on that’,” she says, laughing. “I soon learned that it definitely wouldn’t be possible. Then it was a case of having to learn to ride a road bike – but I just kept falling off, because I kept forgetting that my feet were stuck to the pedals and I had to unclip before I stopped.”
“So many people would laugh at me,” she says. “They would say, ‘You can definitely swim but we don’t know whether you will be able to get through the other two disciplines.’ It’s crazy to think that three years ago I couldn’t ride a racing bike and now I’m the second best ironman athlete in the world.”
Charles got through her first ironman Griffin Reinhart Womens JerseyGriffin Reinhart Womens Jersey it helped that she was a strong club runner as a teenager – and she progressed so rapidly that in 2015 she won the 18-24 age group in Kona as an amateur. That led to a professional contract but her hopes of making an immediate impact were ruined by a stress fracture in her leg.
“I was trying to get my name out there and because of that I raced an ironman and a half-ironman with a massive pain in my leg before I decided it was so sore that I needed to get a scan,” she says.
“The experts told me that, if I had done one more race, then I probably would have cleanly snapped the bone in my leg. They couldn’t believe I was even running. That’s probably one of my downfalls – I can’t give up, no matter how bad it gets. Sometimes I need to listen to my body more.”


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