Mike Goddard – the crossroad of triathlon

It started with a beer and ended up in the national triathlon team for Great Britain. Or, you might as well say that it began as a volunteer teacher in Kenya, and ended up on the summit of Kilimanjaro with the Brownlee Brothers.

For Mike Goddard, triathlon seems to be the sum of all his activities. It is a thrill-seeking lifestyle that suits a former RAF Wing Commander.

Hear Mike tell his story…

Once upon a time

I was in Budapest in September 2010, supporting my son Jimmy at the paratriathlon world championships. He is totally paralysed from the chest downwards after a climbing accident two years previously.

Jimmy invited me to the post-event party, and I met the age group team who convinced me that I should give triathlon a try.

Well, why not!?

Editors note: Mike train with a program from TOT Triathlon. Like to do the same? …then sign up for a free individual plan.

Just act!

Things progressed rapidly from there, and my first triathlon was a sprint – the Speedy Belvoir in the Midlands of England.

My swim was terrible, and I needed to stand up in the shallow part of the lake to rest. The transition from the swim to the bike was an uphill run from the lake lasting some 600m. It suited my running fitness, and I made up a few places.

Then I rode on a non-aero road bike and subsequently switched to my favourite sport – running. My run was fast on the hilly course, and I managed to qualify for the national age-group team and competed for Great Britain at the world championships in Beijing in September 2011.

Editors note: Since 2011, Mike has qualified for every world and European championship. Mikes best positions have been 4th in the world, 2nd in Europe, and Mike has several national wins.

The thrill of triathlon

I just love the training and all the challenges that come with triathlon. I am hugely competitive and always striving to do better in comparison to my peers.

The competitions are so enjoyable, the apprehension, the adrenalin, the meeting of fellow triathletes, the new places visited, the lessons learnt, the coping with disappointments, the thrill of the chase, the winning.

Lake Geneva, Switzerland (Lausanne) getting ready for the World Champs 2019. A lovely location although on the day of the race the lake was very rough and the race was non-wetsuit - not my strongest discipline, so I really suffered.
Lake Geneva, Switzerland (Lausanne) getting ready for the World Champs 2019. A lovely location although on the day of the race the lake was very rough and the race was non-wetsuit – not my strongest discipline, so I really suffered.

Let us climb

I believe that everything in the past has contributed to my success and enjoyment of triathlon.

It started in my 20s when I spent 7 years in Kenya as a volunteer in the VSO (Voluntary Service Overseas) organisation. With a post-graduate in education (majoring in chemistry), I taught all subjects in a secondary Harambee school (Harambee means ‘all pull together’ in Swahili).

During my time in Kenya, I was fortunate to learn a totally different culture and language (Kiswahili). I had the opportunity to train with Kenya runners in my spare time, and I lived at high altitudes and became an experienced mountaineer.

These were my formative years and still influence my thinking and actions to this day.

Editors note: Mike has climbed the summit of Mount Kenya 46 times and the peak of Kilimanjaro 10 times. He still holds the record for running up to Point Lenana (16 300 feet / 4 968 meters) on Mount Kenya and back down in 4 hours and 34 minutes.

RAF Wing Commander

Following Africa, I returned to the UK to join the Royal Air Force for a 17-year career reaching the rank of Wing Commander. At this time, I met my current wife, who became a huge supporter and influenced my future life.

In RAF, I learnt to set goals and to do the necessary to achieve them; I was promoted 4 times and retired at age 46 from the RAF only when the opportunities reduced.

I was at my best physical fitness in those years, running for the RAF. Setting my long-distance personal bests – half marathon in 75 minutes and well under 3 hours in a full marathon.

I am about to set out on a 16 km run through the olive groves and over the hills to the coastal town of Puerto de Mazarron, Southern Spain. This is where I go during the winter when it is too cold in Scotland.

Risk and reward

Right after the RAF, I started a business. This was hugely risky, and for several years we were on the breadline. I persevered, and eventually, our company came good, floating on the London Stock Exchange (BLV) in 2012.

Lessons learned

During my business career, I have discovered the importance of patience and team building. My wife and I started with nothing and ended with over 300 franchisees operating across the whole of the UK.

We built this team with the mantra ‘if you want a job doing properly, then give it to someone who can do it better than you’.

Also, I developed contacts at the highest of levels within my area of interest. We made efforts to meet and befriend the leaders of other businesses in our market and subsequently bought them out, thus growing the company even more.

I have carried the lessons learnt into triathlon.

The Brownlee Brothers

When it comes to triathlon, I have many memorable events over the years. One, in particular, has to be taking the Brownlee Brothers to the summit of Kilimanjaro.

I wanted to give something back to triathlon. And I suspected that Alistair and Jonny might like an all-inclusive expedition to Kilimanjaro and Ngorongoro after their exhausting competition season 2013.

Including their father Keith, physio Emma Deakin, and training partner Alec Duffield, the six of us went for an epic journey.

Mike Goddard together with the Brownlee Brothers on the top of Kilimanjaro.

I remember that I gave them the option of the tourist route (Marangu) or the hardest on the mountain (Great West Breach). Well, you guessed it, they chose the latter!

We all reached the summit. And Jonny and I were camping in the crater at over 18 000 feet (5 486 meters) and even visiting the inner cone.

That adventure made me lasting friends, as well as a good insight into the lives of the professional athletes and their challenges and rewards.

The march of age

I just passed my 70s, and can’t stop the march of age and its consequences. However, I realise that I can slow the process down relative to others of the same age.

I still see significant progress in my swimming and cycling. Part it is non-impact sports, part I have less experience in the two and not many results to compare with. So, as long as I put in the hours, I continue to improve.

Running is perhaps mentally more difficult to handle from an ageing perspective. No matter what I do, I am slowing down – and quite significantly. Looking at my 10k times, 30 years ago, I could run 10k in under 34 mins. Now I am pleased with 47 mins.

I keep reminding myself not to get discouraged when training and racing younger competitors and instead track my progress and results against my age-group.

Delegate, not abdicate

However, with age comes wisdom, they say. And I am no exception. Early in my life, I discovered that trying to be an expert at everything does not work.

So, I have never self-coached in triathlon. Instead, I would rely on someone who is vastly more expert than me.

The coached approach helps me to navigate the all so important discipline of rest and recovery – another factor that is more noticeable for me as an older age-grouper.

Even though I might have a little more time these days, I can only manage around 12 hours of training per week. The body cannot cope with much more than that.

Another great thing with a coach is that I do not have to spend time on ‘what to train’. Instead, I can keep up with my 6 children and 13 grandchildren…

A living proof

I have had the opportunity to follow Mike Goddard in his training. As his coach. Mike is a living proof that age is no limit, and that consistent and structured training gives a great result.

If you also want our help to kick-start your training, register your information in the form below. We will then send you a recommended structure. And it is for free.

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