From Zero to World Champion Triathlete

Ordinary Women Being Extraordinary

At 40, Jane Hansom, was squeezing into a size 14, living a hedonistic, work-orientated busy life as an ad exec for booze and tobacco companies and doing no exercise. The challenge of taking on the London Marathon turned her life around and was the start of her journey to world champion.

‘I promise you, I did nothing, no exercise for at least 20 years. I was three stone heavier than I am now and couldn’t run for a bus, and I had started to look in the mirror, and think what’s happened?  I had natural talent and had been a swimmer and a runner at school but the lid had been firmly shut on my world champion potential. But in 2010 when a client challenged me to take on the London Marathon, I knew I couldn’t say no. I’d heard  Oprah Winfrey saying she’d read a book about how to run a marathon in four hours and I bought that and got started on training.

‘By the time the marathon came around I’d lost all the weight, was size zero, and crossed the line in under four hours. I had officially got the bug, and running became my passion. And I was good at it. In just 18 months I’d managed to run sub-three hours for the marathon in New York.

‘My approach was simple, consistently stick to my plan, and remove any barriers that could stop me running. So for example, I made sure I had a proper jacket, gloves and hat for rain and cold. And I planned in my training around work. I’d also watched some celebrities run the marathon with no preparation and it looked hideous, and I’d decided I wanted to get it over done with and not be crawling around in pain.

‘I’m a 100 per cent in, or 100 per cent out person. And if I decide I’m going to do something, I do it. I guess this helped get me to the podium places and to become world champion. In the run up to the sub-three hour race I had achieved 3.23 when I’d signed up to Runner’s World magazine’s Asics 26.2, which meant I was accountable to their online forum and so there was no way I could miss training. I was also very fortunate to be coached by the famous coach, Bud Buldaro, who taught me that I didn’t need to run every run faster, or longer than the day before and showed me how to structure marathon training. I also joined a running club, Queens Park Harriers. When I started I was one of the slowest runners there, I’m pleased to say I’m now one of the fastest.

Jane’s Marathon times

April 2010 London: 3.54

October2010 Loch Ness: 3.32

April  2011 Paris: 3.04

November 2011, New York: 2.58

April 2012, London: 2.58

The Road To Triathlon

‘With two sub-three marathons done, I was looking for my next challenge. It was my brother who suggested triathlon. He reminded me that I’d been a very good swimmer at school and that I might do well. I  worried about the bike though, as I hadn’t been on bike for 20-plus years and have never trained on a bike.

‘But I entered my first event, a sprint triathlon, held as a test event for the olympics and bought a bike on E-bay. It was the wrong size and clunky but it was good enough and I was amazed to win the race – overall! It turned out that as a good swimmer I could get ahead, then I’d get caught on the bike, but catch it all up again on the run.

‘This win boosted my confidence and was quickly followed by success in Aquathlon and a lot of other races. I took part in the Slateman race in Snowdonia, and loved it, as I enjoy races that dish out some adversity in the middle. I won the series and a two-week holiday at the very well-known training holiday camp for triathletes, Club La Santa, in Lanzarote. By now I was training harder on the bike and had joined a group of guys who cycle around Richmond Park. It was here talk of Ironman started.

‘My first reaction was, that’s way too long. But the more I raced and trained, the more it seemed like it was something I could achieve. Again as someone who likes to do things properly I wanted to be sure I had the best coach – and I found him – Brett Sutton of Tri Sutto (coach to the current world champion at Ironman, Daniela Ryf and four-time world champ Chrissie Wellington).

‘I entered Switzerland Ironman, and didn’t feel ready at all, saying to Brett that maybe I should wait. He disagreed. We decided I’d approach it as a long training session, but I went on to win my age category by 24 minutes. 

‘In doing this race I’d qualified for the world championship at Kona! I had no expectations for the race, I was just so glad to be there with 87 girls who had all won an Ironman. I didn’t over-think it, or plan too far ahead. I was there and not going to worry about unimportant things. It wasn’t until the last 10K that someone told me I was second in my age. I was so chuffed to come second and to be in the top 50 of this elite group of triathletes.

Training

‘As the owner of my marketing agency, Sponge Marketing, I am super-busy and don’t have time to think too hard about training details. I make sure I train early in the morning between 530am and 730am every day, and often at lunch or in the evening as well, which adds up to between 15 and 20 hours training a week. To do this I have to be organised and leave my kit out the night before and make sure my food is simple and prepared in advance (my husband helps me with this). I don’t miss a session, or hit the snooze button because playing catch-up is too stressful and difficult. I know from my experience of the last seven years that consistency is the key to success.

‘It helps that I really do enjoy training. On my 49th birthday I did 40 x 100M swim reps because it’s what I love to do. I don’t train to win trophies and I’m not trying to go about collecting gongs, triathlon means so much more to me. I love the social side, the lifestyle and the community that I’m part of, and as I said I love to train!

From Runner to Triathlete

‘When I started doing triathlon I relied on a good swim and then my running ability to get me to the podium. Nowadays I never run two days in a row, which gives my body time to repair and recover. But to become a world champion I needed to focus on the bike. Cycling made me stronger overall and the net effect of being faster on the bike is obvious in triathlon as you spend more time on the bike than on the other two disciplines. I’m now accomplished at all three disciplines

‘My body shape changed. As a runner I had no bum and was skinny, but as a triathlete I’m more robust and stronger overall. I don’t need to go to the gym, as I do my strength work when I train, such as cycling in a big gear, or swimming with paddles.

Triathlon is a Great Sport for Women

‘As well as the aesthetic benefits of being a triathlete, it’s a great sport for women. Some women feel they can’t be seen in a tri suit, but if they can overcome that barrier, they will get some much from the sport. Really, who cares how you look? When I first went to Kona I felt like a hefferlump surrounded by world champions with six packs. But I soon forgot about all that. It really doesn’t matter. It’s not a beauty contest. Another problem for many is lack of time, but for me getting up early and training gives me time to switch off the stress, and to be creative, coming up with ideas and solving problems, something I don’t think I’d do by sitting on the tube, or writing a long list. You’ll never know what you can do until you try.’

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