The Life of a Triathlete: ”If you want to be a champion, you’ve got to do it”

Marcus Sladden running in Slovenia - Photo Credit Marcus Sladden
Marcus Sladden running in Slovenia - Photo Credit Marcus Sladden
Marcus Sladden running in Slovenia - Photo Credit Marcus Sladden
Marcus Sladden running in Slovenia – Photo Credit Marcus Sladden

How does the life of a triathlete look like?  Swimming, bicycle riding and running are the three components of this endurance sport, but not everyone is made for triathlon. Only the hardest reach the finish after completing the Ironman distances (3,86 km (2,4 miles) swimming, 180,2 km (112 miles) bicycle riding and 42,195 km (26,2  miles) running). What motivates a man to torture himself to get the best out of the aching body on the last metres before the finish line? The Circular author Marian Nadler spoke with up-and-coming triathlete Marcus Sladden (21) from Norwich, Great Britain about his life between family, friends, university and training, his nutritional programm, using athlete crowdfunding and sponsorships as well as his goals for the future.

Marcus Sladden - Photo Credit Marcus Sladden
Marcus Sladden – Photo Credit Marcus Sladden

When did you start being a triathlete and why?

Sladden: I started triathlon in 2012. A friend motivated me to give it a try.

How does a typical day in your life look like?

Sladden: A typical day for me is getting up, having porridge and depending on what day it is I’ll either go to university for the day, or do a day’s training.

Which distances are you covering?

Sladden:  I cover roughly 10k a week swimming, about 130k on the bike and 50k on the run with 2-3 strength and conditioning sessions a week.

His current training week looks like this:

Monday:  Swim 4K and track running session with about 9K covered

Tuesday: Easy 5k run after uni

Wednesday: 40K easy ride and technique swim of about 2K

Thursday: 1 hour turbo consisting of threshold efforts followed by an hour’s worth of threshold running on the trails

Friday: Swim set 4K and easy 5k running

Saturday: Long run, ranging from 1 hour to 1.5 hour

Sunday: Long ride 2-3 hours.


How do you motivate yourself, when it’s one of these days where you don’t want to get out of bed?

Sladden:  I motivate myself by knowing what the end goal is by doing the sessions when I don’t want too, I have a little word with myself and say: If you want to be a champion, you’ve got to do it.


What is the hardest part of a triathlon?

Sladden:  I’d say the hardest part of a triathlon is the whole thing! You’re working as hard as you possibly can in all three disciplines, some people say the run is the hardest but that’s my favourite part!

How do you motivate yourself on the last metres of the race, when your body must be aching as hell?

Sladden:  I motivate myself by thinking that it’s only a few more minutes to go, and if I give up it will stay with me forever but if I keep pushing on I’ll feel better about myself knowing I’ve given it everything.

Did you compete in other countries else than UK?

Sladden: I’ve been travelling this year to Slovenia where I swam in Lake Bohinj and I ran through a lot of the trails while I was there, I was also lucky to have a track nearby too!

Marcus Sladden in Slovenia - Photo Credit Marcus Sladden
Marcus Sladden in Slovenia – Photo Credit Marcus Sladden

What role does your trainer Simon Brierley play? How does the physical and mental training looks like?

Sladden:  I’ve only had Simon as a coach for a few weeks, he has been giving me guidance and coaching on my swimming for a few months now. He has been involved with triathlons for more than 25 years and is a pro triathlete. When he was competing from a young age he won the super series.

What role does pro athlete Joe Skipper play, who supports you as well?

Sladden: I’ve been training with Joe for a few months, only twice a week, they are both run sessions, one is a track session and the other a threshold run session in the trails after a hard turbo session. There is a group and everyone trains alongside Joe, doing the same session he does.

You are searching for a sponsor. How does a triathlete find a sponsor and what does a sponsor do for the triathlete?

Sladden: Its hard to find a sponsor being a triathlete, you just have to get your name out there and make yourself known to a lot of people, companies may approach you to publicise their company in return for funding to help training and travelling to races.

You used the crowdfunding platform Pledge Sports, a crowdfunding platform designed for athletes, to boost your ambitions as a triathlete financially. Did it work and what were your ambitions with that crowdfunding? 

Sladden: It worked amazingly, the support I had from friends, family and others was amazing, the main goal was to raise enough money for entering events and buying some race wheels for my triathlon bike.

How does the perfect triathlete equipment look like?

Sladden: The perfect triathlon equipment in my opinion is a decent triathlon bike, aero wheels, aero helmet, tri suit, running shoes, goggles, swim cap and a wet suit . But at the end of the day it definitely comes down to the individual. Some equipment works better for others. Some people say its not all about the bike!

Marcus Sladden on a bicycle at Waveney Triathlon - Photo Credit Marcus Sladden
Marcus Sladden on a bicycle at Waveney Triathlon – Photo Credit Marcus Sladden

How is your life as a triathlete influencing your life as a student at your college in Norwich?

Sladden:  I’m so fortunate that my university degree is so flexible, I am able to train around lectures to get the most out of the two aspects, being a student at the university has it’s perks as I’m able to train with the university squad, which has helped me a lot.

You changed your life from a lazy teenager to a triathlete with a grade of distinction in sport and exercise science, what were the key factors that changed your life and what helped changing your life?

Sladden:  The key factors that changed in my life was a mental kick. I had always liked the idea of running so I joined a running club and everyone there was so supportive as I was only a newbie! I hated the days before, where I was waking up at 2-3 pm every day not doing anything with my life, so I sat down and had a think, got things done and changed my life.

Is there enough time for your family and your girlfriend  besides studying and training?

Sladden:  I’m lucky at the fact that my girlfriend is so supportive of my training and knows that I’ve got to be out doing 4 km swim sets or two hour turbo sessions, she’ll be cooking tea while I’m doing these sessions just for when I finish. We have a date night every month in which I treat her for everything that she has done for me. Where family is concerned, I always manage to incorporate training when seeing them, they live 20-30 miles away so I’m able to do a long bike ride to see them.

How does your nutritional program look before and after a triathlon?

Sladden:  I don’t follow a strict nutritional program before and after a triathlon, although before the triathlon I make sure that I’ve had a balanced diet and plenty of carbs with no snacking on biscuits. Being a vegan helps me know what I’ve got to eat and makes me think about what I eat more. After a triathlon I try to get plenty of protein, especially in the first half an hour of completing it, as the recovery process is faster.

How does a triathlete regenerate?

Sladden: The way I regenerate after a hard session or a race is taking a day or two off depending on how long or how fatigued I feel after it, I try to not do much walking around and just relax knowing that in a few days I’ve got to train again.

What were your biggest successes that you achieved?

Sladden: My biggest successes are winning the great east run and the Haleigh 5 mile race in 2014 and being selected to compete for my county in the Cross Country Championships.

Marcus Sladden running at the Waveney Triathlon - Photo Credit Marcus Sladden
Marcus Sladden running at the Waveney Triathlon – Photo Credit Marcus Sladden

What was your personal triathlon highlight?

Sladden: My personal triathlon highlight is coming second in a local triathlon, and third in my age group in the ITU Grand Final open age group race in London 2013.

Could you imagine to perform an Iron Man?

Sladden: Oh definitely in the future, I’d love to give one a go and excel at it. I want to reach the world champions one day.

Do you have idols concerning triathlon?

Sladden: I have a lot of people I look up to concerning triathlons, you have the elites like the Brownlee brothers and Javier Gomez, but the people I idolise most are the people I train with, people like Joe and Simon and the people from my run club, seeing there dedication day in and day out really motivates me to keep going.

What are your goals for the future?

Sladden: My goals for the future are qualifying for the World Cup in Conzumel next year, I will be competing in the St Neots triathlon and the Dambuster triathlon to try and secure my spot. A long term goal is to become a professional triathlete.


You can read more about Marcus Sladden on his blog.

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