Qualifying to represent your country at any level is a memorable moment and it’s a feeling Great Britain Age-Group Team member Dr Helen Godfrey, and working GP, will never forget after recently making her international debut at the World Triathlon Aquathlon Championships in Spain.
It’s a process that started ‘accidently’ three years ago for Godfrey, and with the 2023 qualifying events recently announced for 2022, the GP shares the process she followed after first deciding to qualify to represent GB on the international stage.
“It was really quite accidental for me, deciding to qualify for the GB Age-Group Team,” Godfrey said. “I got a parkrun PB early in 2019 and I’m not sure what made me look but I realised I had qualification potential for aquathlon because in the back of mind I knew my swim would be good enough.
“I had a look on the British Triathlon website to find out what I needed to do and then I planned my races for that year. It seemed quite unachievable for me to do this, but I wanted to challenge myself not matter what the outcome.
“I only told my ‘Team Helly’, which is the way I describe a few family members and a few close friends who I consider my support team, to make the challenge real and then I worked really hard towards the goal. So that’s how I sort of fell into the Age-Groups, the very initial bit.”
From there, Godfrey would go on to achieve the required standard at a local event at Castle Howard in her first ever aquathlon. The sense of achievement was complete when Godfrey’s qualification was confirmed, and the qualification mark appeared next to her name.
“I spent most of the day just watching the ‘Qs’ appear next to people’s names as they were working through the age groups and the website was being updated live,” Godfrey said.
“I remember I was on the school run to pick up my girls when they got to my age group so I couldn’t actually check it until I stopped the car.
“Then, when I saw the ‘Q’ next to my name, it was so surreal. I couldn’t really tell anyone why I had a stupid grin on my face because I hadn’t actually told that many people what I was doing and what I was aiming for.
“I remember it really clearly the ‘Q’ that appeared and obviously I then got the confirmation email which I must have opened so many times. I had such an overwhelming response on social media from friends.”
After a delay because of the pandemic, Godfrey wore the GB vest for the first time at the end of October, finishing 10th in the 40-44 female age group at the 2021 World Triathlon Aquathlon Championships.
At the start, Godfrey admits, you can think it’s out of reach, but, for Godfrey, it’s all about setting mini milestones en-route to the final destination.
“It’s still really unbelievable to me that I managed to qualify and then compete at the World Championships,” Godfrey said. “I think a lot of people do feel like that because it can seem quite overwhelming.
“The target of making the team gives you that drive to go out, but everything is little steps, everything is tiny,” Godfrey said.
“It is nice to see the bigger picture sometimes, but each thing is like a little mini-step towards your bigger goal and from there it just builds. It could just be something little like putting your trainers on and getting out there, or you may have a small event that could be a local event, or it could be a parkrun, and remember you are always looking at yourself and bettering yourself.
“We all have ups and down, we have good days and bad days, but overall, I think as long as you’re enjoying it that’s the main thing. I ruptured my ACL a few years ago, and I remember thinking when I can run again, I’m always going to appreciate it, I’m always going to have a smile on my face and four years later I really do. It’s all experience, everyone, even professionals, have good days and bad days.”
With the Age-Group qualifying events for 2023 already confirmed, Godfrey enjoys being able to plan and have goals to work towards.
“It’s a lovely feeling to have something in the pipeline that you’re training to compete in but it’s also something extra to work towards for an extra opportunity further in the future. I find that thing fun,” Godfrey said.
“British Triathlon have just released their qualifiers for 2023, so my advice would be to have a look at the dates, enter the ones you want to aim for and then build your training around them. There isn’t just one chance, there are a few races in the year, you can look at them, build them around your own training cycles, hopefully arriving at the time to race and being able to perform.
“I would really recommend people just having a look at just what the criteria is. Age-Group is based on your age and percentage. It’s definitely more achievable than people think, I think it’s just about having that little bit of belief that you can do it.
“You do need to work towards it but you’re going to be doing that anyway because we do it because we love it, and we love the challenge. It is wonderful having that as a focus and a goal, especially now we’re coming into the new year, and the events have all been released ready for the qualify for 2023.
“I’ve done a lot of different sports in my life, and I find triathlon is really one of the most friendly, welcoming sports. It doesn’t matter what standard you are people seem to want to help.”
Godfrey has already begun to get her calendar sorted for 2022 but admits it’s still a “work in progress”.
“I’ve still got my first European Championships which has been rolled over twice now, and that will be in Bilbao in Spain in September,” Godfrey said. “I got a PQ [performance qualification] for the worlds next year but we still don’t know where that is or when it is. As soon as I know where that is I can start planning a little bit more around that.”