The Arch To Arc Triathlon is considered one of the ultimate tests of endurance. Athletes travel from London's Marble Arch to Paris' Arc De Triomphe by running, swimming, and cycling almost 250 miles. This race is not for the faint hearted!
The race starts with an 87-mile run from London's Marble Arch in the west end to Dover in Kent. From there it's a brutal 22-mile swim in the 15-degree waters of the English Channel. Upon arriving in France, it's then a 180-mile cycle through the French countryside to the Arc De Triomphe in Paris. Only 42 athletes have ever completed this challenge.
The A2A race is organised by Enduroman Events. This organisation organises events such as the Triple Enduroman which is a 7.2-mile swim, 336-mile bike, and 78-mile run. It is the same as doing 3 full Ironman races back to back! They also organise various ultra-marathons and extreme swim competitions.
Read our interview with Arch To Arc finisher Paul Parrish for a true idea of what this event is like.
Arch To Arc Triathlon Records (information correct as of 2018)
TIME Run Split 18:35:00 Wait in Dover 06.21:00 Swim Split 14:47:00 Wait in Calais 06:25:00 Bike Split 13:48:00 Overall Time 59:56:00
Run Split 19:52:00 Wait in Dover 16:47:00 Swim Split 15:40:00 Wait in Calais 09:06:00 Bike Split 17:14:00 Overall Time 78:39:00
My first Ironman.
3.8km Swim, 180km Bike, 42.4km Run
The build-up to my first Ironman was a mixture of emotions from nerves to excitement and a constant mind full of questions whirring round in my head. The last few weeks training before the taper were the toughest and as my children broke up for the summer holidays, the routine became more difficult to manage. Nevertheless, I made it to the start line having clocked up thousands of miles in training.
My husband and I arrived in Switzerland on the Thursday and already there was an Ironman atmosphere. Zurich was beautiful but extremely hot. On the Friday, we walked down to the event village to register. I suddenly felt in awe by the whole experience. Registration was easy enough and so was spending money in the expo shop. I picked up my bike which had been shipped over by Ship My Tri Bike – a very convenient option and I took it for a pre-race test ride. The roads were amazing but my legs felt like jelly, however, everything with my Argon was in working order which was a relief. Following the ride, I somehow managed a big rookie error turning up to the French rather than English Race Brief – this didn’t help with pre-race jitters. In an attempt to manage my nerves I decided to go for a swim recce of Lake Zurich. The lake, although beautiful, was vast and much choppier than it looked – very different to the lake back home.
Saturday was a fairly chilled morning pottering around Zurich, trying to keep off the feet as much as possible. The afternoon was spent back the event village racking my bike and hanging my red and blue bags in transition ready for race day. Ironman events have a very different way of doing thigs with the various bags. This requires some careful planning and consideration, but works very well on the day. I took pictures in transition to help visualise the entries and exits, and also took note of landmarks to help find my bike – transition was enormous with bikes packed very tightly and close to one another. Next time I was going to be in transition it would be race day – finally time to take on the challenge that had consumed so much time and emotion in the prior months.
After some sleep and a lot of awake, the alarm went off at 4am. There was a nervous atmosphere at the hotel during breakfast. Lots of acknowledging each other but very little conversation. After coffee and some food, we walked the 30 minutes to transition. I couldn’t believe I had made it to race day. Walking down was eerie and the streets were a mixture of Lycra clad triathletes and the last of the revellers from the night before.
Arriving at transition, I quickly heard that it had been confirmed as non-wetsuit. The size of the challenge ahead suddenly became very real and it took all my efforts to control my emotions at this time. My husband and I walked to the swim start where the atmosphere was surreal. One thing that was very noticeable was the ratio of men to women – I suddenly felt very small. I seeded myself towards the back of the normal swim pen, adding an extra 10 mins to my expected time to reflect the non-wet suit swim. My goal for this event was to complete (not compete); and being non-wetsuit I wanted to find my own space. The race quickly started as the athletes were allowed in the water 8 at a time at 5-second intervals. Off I went into the water. I broke the swim down into the individual marker buoys and soon I settled into a rhythm. It was a one lap course and the back straight seemed to go on forever. As I made the final turn I have never felt more relieved – I had almost made it out of the water!
3.8km swim time: 01:31:43
As I exited the water, I ran into T1, changed into my bike stuff, found my bike, oh dear the chain was hanging off…. It had obviously been knocked as someone had taken their bike. I managed to get it back on and off I went. I had been looking forward to the bike the most in the build-up. The course was 2 laps and started off flat before taking on some climbs in some of the most stunning and picturesque scenery I have seen.
Unfortunately for me, I just couldn’t settle into my usual zone and I quickly became very uncomfortable. I was struggling to stay aero as my chest felt restricted and my neck was very tense. This wasn’t going to plan. The support on the course was fantastic – especially on Heartbreak Hill which was like cycling through a section of the Tour de France. It was also where my hubby was giving me a much needed boost.
As I entered onto the second lap, the temperature was rising (35 degrees); and it became more of a mental battle than physical. I felt nauseous and was having to force nutrition down to try and stick to the plan. The next couple of hours were brutal and after 6 hours and 18 minutes on the bike I made it back to T2 feeling pretty awful.
180km bike time: 06:19:46
I am not 100% sure what took so long but after 8 minutes in T2 I set off for the marathon. Up until recently, the run has always been my favourite and strongest discipline. This was not the case on race day. Every time I ran I felt sick, not helped at all by the heat. The support at the aid stations was superb and they were 100% geared up for the blistering temperatures, giving out ice and cold sponges. Despite this, my body had different ideas and I was sick every few minutes making it very difficult to settle into any rhythm.
I knew now it was going to be a very long afternoon, but there was no way I was giving up – I needed to revert to a different strategy. Walking in a race was alien to me but I knew that I had to find some strategy to get me round, so I settled into running for as long as could and then walking for 3 minutes (whilst throwing up)!
Eventually I made it round the first of the 4 laps which rather cruelly takes you past the red carpet and the finish line. Seeing that and the atmosphere at the end gave me the motivation to keep going. My husband was incredible on the run and kept surprising me by appearing in places which kept me going.
Finally, after a very long and painful few hours, I made it to lap 4 and the end was in sight.. Off I set for my final lap of Zurich… the last couple of kms felt like they took forever but in the distance I could hear the finish line music and being able to collect my fourth band was an amazing feeling. I managed to run the last few kilometres and as I entered into the finish shoot the emotions came flooding in. I saw my hubby in the crowd and heard those famous words – Leanne James – YOU ARE AN IRONMAN.
42.4km run time: 05:26:42
I had made it, finishing in 13:32:46. It was a long way from where I had hoped to finish but I didn’t care. I burst into tears as I met hubby while the events of the day sank in. We then enjoyed the finish line party and it was extremely emotional watching everyone finish their race… all with their own stories and experiences.
A couple of weeks on and it has been great spending time with family and friends with only light training before starting the next block in the build up to IM Weymouth 70.3 and also the ETU Duathlon Championships in Ibiza.
Would I do another Ironman? Absolutely. I learned so much from this race, especially as I am still relatively new to the sport, but for now I will stick to the 70.3s.
When I am not teaching Pilates and running around as a busy mum, I compete in Biathle and Biathlon events. I competed at county and national level swimming as a youngster and was a pretty good runner, so this combination was a great way for me to return to sport as a masters athlete after the birth of my little girl.
What is Biathlon?
Biathle and Biathlon are events under the pentathlon umbrella. Modern pentathlon comprises five diverse sports: swimming, fencing, horse riding, running, and shooting. Biathle is a subset of modern pentathlon and is a continuous sprint run-swim-run competition. My strengths are in quicker events and I love a good sprint. I am definitely not planning any Ironman triathlons any time soon!
As a 43-year-old, I am classed as a masters competitor. The distance for me is 1200m run, 100m swim, and then another 1200m run. I am part of the Northwest Pentathlon Hub and compete in a series of competitions locally and also events nationally within the GB Biathle series. Whilst I would love to train weekly with my club under our coaches Dr Nic Rowley and Richard Hannam, my schedule often does not allow this, so I have to schedule my training around being a mum and running a business.
How to train for Biathle/Modern Biathlon
This year, I have focused on strength training, hill sprints and sprint sessions in the pool. When I get 20-30 minutes in my day to train, I have to make it count! I also practise Pilates and make sure I eat well to fuel my body and mind.
The run section of a Biathle race is often a trail run, followed by a quick transition to open water for the 100m swim. It's a fast event with little room for error. The transition from the fast runs and then fast swim is tough. Our coach gives us lots of training on quick transitions, as this is often where you win or lose the race.
Qualifying for the Modern Biathlon Championships
In 2018, I qualified for the European Biathle Championships in Germany and was pleased to get 5th place. This was my first taste of competing at that level and it inspired me to aim higher in 2019. Thankfully, I've had an injury-free year and my local races went really well. I was pleased to win the Northwest Masters Women series again this year.
In August, the British Biathle Championships were held at Salford Quays, Manchester. This was a great race and although every step of the last run hurt, it was a great time for me and I was pleased to get the gold. Winning this race meant I qualified for the World Biathle Championships in Florida, but I was unable to go this year. I aim to get to the World Champs in 2020!
The Biathle season finishes in September and then it is time to focus on Modern Biathlon. This event is a track run and pool swim (as opposed to the trail run and open water swim of Biathle). In the masters category, we run 1600m and the swim is 100m. Again, it is all about the sprint and earning as many points as you can from each event. The faster you go, the more points you get!
I qualified for the 2019 British Modern Biathlon Championships held in Nottingham . Although I felt really tired going into the event, I was determined to retain my title from 2018.
British Modern Biathlon Championships Race Report
I went out fast on the run and felt good up until the third lap. My legs started to feel heavy and I felt I had nothing left in the tank. I managed to hold on and win, but gosh it was tough! I was 20 seconds down on my PB, so I knew I wasn’t firing on all cylinders.
After a quick re-fuel, it was time for the swim. I was a breaststroke specialist in my youth, so although freestyle is not my favourite stroke, I can still pull off a reasonable swim. Again, I was pleased to win, but was 3 seconds down on my best.
Even though I was disappointed with my points, I was so pleased to win. It really is a great feeling to still be able to achieve things like this as a masters athlete. My sport is so welcoming and everyone supports each other. I love having a focus to my training and when I compete it is a bit of ‘me’ time.
I am a true competitor and love a good race. I cannot wait to see what 2020 brings. Each year I set myself some realistic goals and then review my progress at the end of the year. I would urge anyone who loves sport to keep going…. never let anyone tell you it is too late! I am more determined now and achieving more than I ever did in my teens.
Thank you to all at Sundried for your continued support. I absolutely love the ethically-produced clothing. It is superb quality, design and fit. I am proud to represent Sundried. Bring on 2020!
About the author: Ruth Hoyle is a competitive athlete, Sundried ambassador, and owns the fitness business Exercise Angels.
Southend Triathlon is returning for its third year on Sunday 16th June 2019. The route is reverting back to that of the 2017 race with an open road bike course around the quiet country lanes of Great Wakering and Barling.
For 2019, Southend Triathlon will be capped at 400 competitors and the race will be set off in waves of 50 competitors according to ability with the faster athletes starting first. Registration will be available the day before, Saturday 15th June, as well as on the day. The first swim wave will start the race at 10:30am and all competitors are expected to have finished by 2pm.
The swim is a 750m route in the open water of the Thames Estuary. Wetsuits may not be mandatory but they are very strongly advised as wearing one aids with buoyancy and could increase your speed! The swim starts at Uncle Tom's Cabin in Shoeburyness and is an out-and-back route parallel to the shoreline.
The bike is a 20km cycle out from Shoeburyness and into Great Wakering and Barling. All participants must adhere to the highway code. There will be marshals on route and anyone caught flouting these rules will be instantly disqualified.
There is a set of traffic lights on the bike course which will be marshaled throughout the race. If you are stuck at a red light, don't worry, you will be awarded a time bonus at the end of the race.
The run follows the same route as the 2018 race and is 3 laps of Gunner's Park on the Garrison. A beautiful, traffic-free run will take you to the finish line back by Uncle Tom's Cabin.
For more information and a full FAQ please visit www.southendtriathlon.com
Date: May 25th 2019
Location: Tooting Bec Lido, Tooting Bec Road, Tooting, London, SW16 1RU
Event Type and Distance: Aquathlon 810m swim / 7.3km run
Amenities: Takes place in the iconic Tooting Lido the UK's largest freshwater pool, fundraising opportunities, chip timing, relay options, event day sports massage, medal for every finisher
Entry Price: £35 individual - £45 relay
The Total Motion Aquathlon returns to the iconic Tooting Bec Lido, the largest freshwater swimming pool in the UK, on Saturday 25h May 2019 for the latest edition of this increasingly popular event. Now in its 3rd year as part of the BTF London Senior League.
The event will begin with a staggered start to the 810m, 9 length swim of Tooting Bec Lido, and followed by a run of 3 loops of Tooting Common, totaling 7.3km. As always the aquathlon will be chip timed, allowing you to receive times and splits immediately after you finish. If you wish you may enter The Total Motion Aquathlon as a relay team with one person swimming and one running.
In 2017 and 2018 The Total Motion Aquathlon sold out well in advance, so be sure to enter early and secure your place in 2019.