At 5.25pm (BST) this Saturday 8th October, thousands of the fittest people on the planet will be lining the shores of Kailua, Hawaii ready to compete in the Ironman World Championships 2016. We’re proud to say that among them will be Sported’s very own South West Regional Manager, Louise Harris, who qualified for the coveted and world-famous event with an outstanding performance at Ironman Copenhagen in August.
With Women’s Sport Week underway, showcasing women’s sport at every level, from the grassroots to the elite, and highlighting the incredible contribution that women make to sport, it’s a fitting time to celebrate her achievements! Before she hopped on a plane to Hawaii, we spoke to her about her sporting journey thus far and her expectations for the big event.
How did you first get into triathlons?
“I have always been a jack of all trades and master of none. So I thought a sport that included three sports was a good idea! I knew from the first time I decided to try triathlon, I wanted to represent my country in my age-group.”
Have you always been ‘sporty’? What were your own experiences of school and grassroots sport?
“I had wonderfully supportive parents who, despite living in a very rural part of Exmoor and over an hour’s round trip from my school, would come and pick me up from after-school clubs and competitions. I will always be grateful for this as I appreciate not everyone gets this opportunity. Also, my best friend lived two miles away and we had to walk over the fields and meet at a bridge if we wanted a gossip!”
What is it about triathlons that you love?
“The challenge. The fact you need to constantly juggle training for three sports and keep all three plates spinning. I also love the fact it results in all round fitness, and rewards every age group equally, so when I’m 73 I can still race in the World Championship in my age-group, like my friend and inspiration, Peggy Crome does each year.”
When did you set you sights at competing at Kona and what did you have to change in order to turn that goal into a reality?
“When I took up triathlon six years ago Ironman seemed like an impossible goal, so it quickly became my main goal! Once I realised longer distance was for me, I set about changing my attitude to training, making each session count. I overhauled my diet for maximum recovery, accepted that I needed to spend more time doing my weaker disciplines and less time doing the ones I loved, and got very good at multi-tasking!”
What are you most looking forward to at Kona?
“Competing on the same stage as all my heroes and heroines of the sport. I get very star struck with athletes who are at the top of their game. I’m also looking forward to trying a race in very challenging conditions, as well as swimming with some dolphins. My first Ironman was in Nottingham so I’m sure it will be slightly different to the rowing lake at Holme Pierpont!”
Which females inspire you?
“Quite simply, I admire all females who help other females. In sport there is still so much inequality, particularly the area of media coverage and awareness. Any female athletes who help others to get noticed for their amazing achievements are not only supporting sport, they are supporting society.”
What do you think more can be done to further increase female participation?
“So much of people’s lives are influenced by the media. If female sport had more media coverage (as opposed to the 3% they currently get of all sports media coverage) we could start to try and inspire a generation of fit and active females. If it were widely seen that women had the respect of the media, and the inequality amongst the prize purses and sponsorship were addressed, more females would be attracted to sport and activity, from grassroots up to elite. And we all know that supporting grassroots sport is vital in finding the next Chrissy Wellington or Laura Trott.
“When the England Women’s rugby team won the World Cup (YES, the World Cup!), one of their players in the squad had to return to work the next day as a plumber, as they didn’t get paid a professional wage and had to support themselves. If more role models like her were supported equally as the men are, they would be able to spend more time trying to inspire other girls to take part, rather than have to dash back to work to earn a living. Equality is about equal respect for anyone who gets to the top of their game, with the ability and responsibility to inspire others, regardless of gender.”
To watch all the live action visit Ironman.com (with the enhanced Athlete Tracker you will be able to follow Lou’s progress and know where exactly on the course she is at any time).