Richard Conway’s swim, bike, run journey to date hasn’t been without personal challenges and unexpected obstacles, but that hasn’t stopped his love for the sport including representing the Great Britain Age-Group Team on the international stage.
Sharing his story for February’s Triathlon England newsletter, Conway, who also presents the Agegroup Multisport Podcast, said: “After having run and cycled for pleasure all my life, when my son kicked his last football, I decided it was my turn to have a go at something new. The local leisure centre was hosting a British Tri taster session, so I thought I would go along and see what it was all about. After that, I did a couple of duathlons as my swimming wasn't up to much, I really enjoyed them but realised how off the pace I was.
“Then a group of us got together and created our local triathlon club. Swimming got more serious with proper sessions and a local race was put on the calendar. After a couple years and mainly local races a couple of the team started racing for GB, this gave many of us in the club a bigger goal to aim for.
“During this time, I was training with the local athletics club and on one particular evening after a run time trial I felt out of sorts and my time was way down. The next day at work I still felt terrible and at one point I blacked out, I was taken to the hospital, where I was told I was having a heart attack. They then blue lighted me over to the cardiac hospital where I was operated on straight away, a blockage was cleared, and a stent fitted. After several days in the hospital, where I was told by doctors, nurses and consultants that I wouldn't be able to take part in triathlons again, I was released home.
“In shock and mentally and physically drained, the recovery began. Now on medication, which I still take today, and the help of the cardiac rehab clinic, my family and my teammates, I began to rebuild my mental and physical confidence.”
Having consulted and received follow-up medical advice, Conway went on to race a half marathon four months after his heart attack and he has not looked back since.
Determined to get back racing in swim, bike, run, Conway has represented the GB Age-Group Team at four European Championships in duathlon and in triathlon at the 2019 World Triathlon Grand Final on the Gold Coast.
“Once I was back to regular racing, which took me a couple of years and after learning what was required to qualify to represent at Age-Group, due to still not being a strong enough swimmer, I decided to try and qualify for a sprint duathlon that was to be held in Soria, Spain,” Conway added.
“I raced a qualification race at Clumber Park and got a roll down place and we were off to Spain. I will never forget the day I received my first GB tri suit or that first race, it was blowing a hoolie and eventually snowed in the afternoon, but I loved every minute of it. I've since qualified for several races both duathlon and triathlon and thoroughly enjoy the whole Age-Group experience, taking group experience, taking my family away and getting a holiday as well as a race is priceless.”
So how does Conway reflect on his triathlon career to date?
“Personal challenges and unexpected obstacles, brought literally to collapse, but I have been compelled not to take the phrases I was being told, "no" and "you will never", "you can't",” Conway reflected.
“Cautiously I reached each milestone I set myself, with support from a strong group of family and friends, reaching levels that the medical profession said were unattainable. I now enjoy the process of being an Age-Grouper and all the benefits it brings. There are not many sports where you can race on the same course at the same event in your national kit as the elite athletes in your sport.”