Triathlon England hears from Rowann Bowcutt, co-founder of 10IronWomen, a community of women inspiring each other to achieve their goals in triathlon.
Having started as a group of 10 women coming together to compete at IRONMAN Barcelona 2019, the collective now hosts events for its growing community across the UK, while striving towards a 50/50 gender split in IRONMAN competition.
“10IronWomen started just as some crazy conversations we were having as a group about what the next challenge could be,” said Bowcutt, one of the group’s founding members.
“We had heard about IRONMAN, but we weren’t sure if we could complete an IRONMAN distance triathlon, and I think we all felt a bit nervous about it. Once we started talking to each other we thought ‘hold on, we could probably do this if we did it as a group’.
“I still remember the day we signed up. We were part of a running group in London, and we had just finished our run after talking about it throughout. Then we opened our phones and were like ‘there are still spots in Barcelona and we can enter.’
“What made it easier was the fact I knew that there were nine others that signed up with me, and that's where it was born.”
Bowcutt and the group’s co-founders had never imagined how much it would grow, but the excitement from Barcelona quickly caught the attention of 10IronWomen’s budding new audience.
“I'm really proud of where we've got it to today,” Bowcutt continued.
“It was really only after we'd finished IRONMAN Barcelona 2019 that we were thinking, ‘OK, what's next?’. We had a lot of people follow us on that day through our Instagram account, and a lot of people were saying, ‘This can't end here, what’s next?’, ‘Is there going to be a new round of 10?’.
“We decided that actually, we don't want to be restricted to 10, we want to grow this and it's snowballed from there.”
As the group has developed so too have its goals. While originally aiming to inspire its members on their own triathlon journeys, 10IronWomen is now looking to tackle the wider barriers to participation.
“There are multiple obstacles to women entering sports in general, triathlon in particular, and we've done work to highlight the diversity of those obstacles and try to encourage women to sign up or enjoy triathlon with us,” Bowcutt added.
“Either we’ve faced these obstacles and overcome them, or we know people that have. I think one of the biggest things is seeing people like you achieve these things.
“That's why we want to try and get more women into triathlon, our biggest goal being this 50/50 gender split in an Ironman distance event, because if you see more women completing these types of events then you're more likely to yourself.
“I think we've still got a long way to go. It's not like we're close to 50/50 right now, but just putting the goal out there highlights the problem.
“We did a triathlon in the summer called the Cotswolds Classic and there was a 40/60 split, so 40% women at that event, which was the first time I'd ever really competed in an event that had that many women.
“It was really noticeable being out there on the course and that's just what motivates me to push this even further. I think it would be incredible if we could see that many women in an IRONMAN.”
As the group builds on tackling those barriers, it has also looked to crowdfund for disadvantaged athletes and encourage diversity in other areas.
“We've talked about fundraising for women or a small group of women from a disadvantaged background that may not be able to do an IRONMAN because of the financial constraints,” said Bowcutt.
“It would be great to get them into an event and get them coaches, get them all the equipment and then get them across the finish line. If we can diversify IRONMAN, not only in gender but also based on ethnicity as well, I think that would be really great.
10IronWomen emphasises that it is not a club and there is no paid membership, their aim is to build a community that is open to all women.
Bowcutt concluded: “Even if you have never even thought about doing triathlon or even running one kilometre, you are more than welcome.”