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Calum Johnson Athlete Ambassador

by Alexandra Parren

athlete cycling triathlon

Calum has been practising sport his whole life but has found his passion in triathlon. He talks to Sundried about training and racing.

Have you always been into sport? 

Yes, I’ve always been into sport, starting off doing judo from the age of 6. I competed in judo up until the age of 12 and at that point I began to swim at the local swimming club in Newcastle. I won national medals in judo which is crazy because I was so young and it didn’t really mean that much to me because I was just a kid having some fun on the judo mat throwing people about and enjoying myself! I quit judo quite early on and moved onto swimming; I was a typical kid who got bored and wanted a new challenge. I progressed year on year in swimming and began to get regional medals when I was 14/15.

I then began to compete in cross country races for the school and I raced in my first English Schools cross country competition when I was 15. I did no running training as I was still fully focused on swimming so I didn’t achieve anything special, coming 211th, but it was the buzz I got from the race that would lead me onto joining Gateshead Harriers running club and start training with the group there.

How did you first get into triathlon? 

I was introduced to triathlon when I entered a local aquathlon at age 16 and finished in 1st place. I was approached by the head of North East Triathlon, Barry Jameson, and he persuaded me to give triathlon a go. He was very generous in loaning me a very old school road bike. I crashed several times going round a corner but finished my first race in 3rd place. This was the start of my triathlon journey, but it was fair to say I had a long, long way to go!

I love triathlon because of the variety in the training. I’ve always had a love for pushing my body to extremes and triathlon was a great excuse to do that. I love everything that comes with triathlon including the travelling, the competitors, and the lifestyle.

What’s been your best race to date? 

I find it really hard to narrow down my favourite race to just one so I might have to push the boat out a bit and choose two.

I love racing at Hever Castle each September. Most of the times I have raced there the weather has been great and the course is just a bit different than other courses which makes it a challenging and interesting race.

My other favourite would be the ITU World Cup course in Karlovy Vary, Czech Republic. It’s one of the toughest courses there is with hills, corners, cobbles but a great crowd.

And your proudest achievement? 

My proudest achievement to date would be in 2017 when I won my first International race at the European Cup in Weert, Netherlands. At the time I also found out that I was graduating with a first class honours degree in Accounting and Finance!

Have you ever had any racing disasters/your toughest race yet?

I’ve had many racing disasters for sure… I guess that’s all part of learning to become the best athlete you can be. I remember travelling to Brazil for the World University Championships in 2014 and it happened to be my first ever Olympic distance triathlon. I ended up severely dehydrated because of the hot weather (it was 35 degrees) and I had serious cramps on the run, from my legs to my abdominals. I walked most of the 10km run. I was determined to finish having travelled all that way. The run took me just under an hour… and because I was out in the sun for so long I ended up with the most severe sunburn too. Flying back to the UK the next day was a painful experience to say the least.

How do you overcome setbacks? 

Overcoming setbacks is something I’ve become quite good at over the years as I have had many setbacks. One that sticks out the most was in March 2015. Out on a training ride, I was hit by a car whilst crossing a roundabout. I don’t have much memory from the incident apart from the car was travelling at a high speed and I ended up in hospital. I ended up with a serious injury to my backside plus a load of other injuries. I lost an insane amount of blood and recovery took a long time. I wasn’t able to sit down for weeks and was forced to lie on my side.

Recovering from this taught me an awful lot about myself. Everybody says it but patience is the most key part for overcoming a setback. Trusting what you are doing and/or what you are being advised is so important. Having confidence in your ability and that although a setback may knock you back in terms of fitness levels, it doesn’t make you a worse athlete than you were. Always be reminded that with hard work, patience and resilience, you will still progress on that journey to becoming the best you can possibly be.

What advice do you wish you'd been given before you started competing? 

As I am now reminded all of the time, a happy athlete is a performing athlete. It’s really important to enjoy the journey and the process. You will perform your best when you are happy in your surroundings. Embracing the opportunities and making the most of the places you visit and the chances you are given.

What are your goals for 2019 and 2020? 

My goal for 2019 has been to try and establish myself as much as possible on the ITU racing circuit. My mission is always to better myself and become the best I can be in all walks of life and this year has been a case of trying to find out what works best for me and if I am going to keep progressing, then what is the best plan going forward, both in terms of training and general lifestyle.

My goal for 2020 from a performance perspective is to continue to progress as an ITU athlete. I also plan to try out some longer distance races over half ironman as I believe that is where my strengths lie. In 2020 I want to implement more challenge into my training, racing, and day-to-day life. Challenge and variety is where I get most of my enjoyment from and I know I will perform to the best of my ability when I am enjoying what I am doing.

Who do you take inspiration from? 

I take my inspiration from several people but I’ll name two people who have had a massive influence on my career so far.

Firstly, my dad. He was a runner himself back in the 1980s and has lots of experience. He was never fortunate to do it full-time and always had to work full-time alongside running internationally. He’s taught me so much (including his never go down without a fight attitude) which has all helped shape me into the athlete I am today.

Secondly, Non Stanford, who most people will know as the 2013 World Champ and Olympian. I was fortunate enough to spend a lot of time training with Non before we went separate ways in 2018, but her attitude, desire and resilience is inspiring and that’s really helped me to become the best athlete I can be. Not only that but Non is one of the friendliest athletes on the circuit and also a great laugh!

What do you like about Sundried and what’s your favourite bit of our kit? 

Sundried are a fantastic brand and company. Their attitude towards sustainability in current times is just what the world needs right now and it’s inspiring to see a company with this at its heart. I love the Sundried Plaret Running T-Shirt. It’s a great looking casual top that I love to wear just out and about but it’s also fantastic for doing some of my run sessions in too.

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