London Triathlon 8-9 August 2015 Royal Victoria Docks, London

by Jennifer Zerk.

I entered this race because I needed something to shock me out of my complacency and off the sofa. I figured the Olympic distance at the Big Daddy of UK Triathlons would be sufficiently scary to get me back out on the bike and down to MVC for training sessions with Josh at the crack of dawn on Sundays and it worked – pretty much. I was also curious, as triathlon’s Rip Van Winkle (my last Olympic Distance Tri was in 1998!) to see how things had changed (apart from my waistline!). For added incentive, I joined Team MacMillan as a tribute to several of my friends and family who have recently battled cancer so bravely, and in memory of a very special lady, my godmother Bernice, who died in May this year.

Anyway, here are my thoughts about the event, which I hope will be useful to anyone thinking of doing this race next year.


The race is incredible and the organisation is exceptional – which of course it absolutely has to be, with over 13,000 triathletes of all abilities and 30,000 spectators visiting in the course of the weekend. Athletes and spectators are well looked after with plenty of information and things to do and see. The setting at the Royal Victoria Docks is spectacular (see photo below!) and of course we had a cracking day weather-wise (if you like that sort of thing, see account of the run below). The Excel Centre itself is air-conditioned, which was a relief given the weather on the day.

Getting there

The venue is pretty easy to get to from the M11 but we were stuck in a traffic jam for about 45 mins about a mile from the event, which I think was probably caused by road closures for the bike course. We allowed an extra hour over and above what we thought it would take to get there – and I was very glad we did. The signage on the approach to the Excel site wasn’t very good. There was a sign missing from what turned out to be a critical junction. Once inside the complex, we were worried about going the wrong way around a one way system – it was only on the second approach that we realised that this was what we were actually supposed to do. There are several changes to the normal traffic flow for this event – just follow the procession of bikes! There is plenty of parking at the Excel Centre but if you are transporting bikes on the top of your car, be aware that there is a 1.9m height restriction at the Eastern end of the car park.

Reception, bike check, transition and pre-race briefing

All great. Immaculate organisation. No queues. Clear instructions. And the transition was surprisingly spacious given the number of competitors. I expected it to be hell, but it wasn’t. You rack up according to your wave time. Early-birds had plenty of room to organise their stuff. The amount of space I had was luxurious compared to other triathlons. Latecomers may have found it a bit of a squish, though, as they would have had to make do with what was left. At the swim assembly point there was a lovely surprise in the form of Alice Barnes!!! At the sight of her all my pre-race nerves disappear. Pre-race briefing was both fun and serious – there were some well chosen words about taking care of each other out on the course and coming back in one piece – and we were all invited to hug a stranger. I hugged Alice as well.


Women’s age group: 12:50 start. Alice and I are both in here somewhere.


Relieved to get around this given recent problems (I inconveniently developed a phobia of open water during the Maldon Tri last year). The hours spent at TriFarm with the fabulous and endlessly patient Gill and Dawnie of TriNSwimWell paid off. The end buoy under the bridge looked like it was miles away but I reached it surprisingly quickly (for me). I’m having a bit of a love affair with the yellow lane rope on the way back but I’m out of the water and past the timing check point in 42:14. Yaaahy! But now the disadvantage of having such a large and spacious transition area sinks in – it takes me an eternity to get up slippery stairs to the first floor and around the Excel Centre lugging a heavy wetsuit. But I find my bike quickly, even without my glasses, thanks to the huge signs.


Not a bad course for an urban adventure but a bit of a mess in places. The course gets ridiculously narrow around Canary Wharf – throw in some sharp bends and you have a recipe for crashes, carnage and much stress. You have to be very aware of your line and who is around you. That said, everyone around me was courteous and considerate and, if the faster triathletes were frustrated by the lack of feasible passing points, they didn’t show it. The course takes you through the Limehouse Tunnel four times (that’s 7.04km in total – if anyone knows of any other triathlons where you spend just under a sixth of the bike ride underground, let me know). If you are interested in art, look up at as you enter the tunnel at each end. The journey out to the University of East London and back is workaday, but there is a very unwelcome little ascent up the ramp and back to first floor transition – so all the advice about going to a low gear and spinning for a bit at the end of the bike goes out the window. The bike took me 1:38:42. Quite pleased with that considering …



Ugh. By now it’s hotter than hell outside and it’s cookin’ along the verandah that abuts the docks area. I’m not happy. I left Australia to get away from the heat – not to run around in it!!! I can barely get my legs moving and by the time I get to the 3km mark I’m feeling sick and my heart rate is way too fast – but wait – here’s lovely Alice looking as fresh as a daisy!!! She yells a friendly greeting and hares off (presumably to the finish line) as I slog onwards into the muggy heat. The organisers have thoughtfully laid on sprinklers to help people avoid heatstroke but that isn’t enough for me. By the 5km mark I am walking and by the 7km mark I am actually sitting down!!! Yes, really – but I am d*mned if I am going to be the person on the front pages of the newspapers tomorrow who died of heatstroke at the London Triathlon! Well, the less said about the run the better though I take comfort from the fact that I was in good company. There were quite a few walkers by now (though not quite so many sitters). I get around the “run” (run/walk) in 1:19. The support from the MacMillan crowd was huge and is probably the reason I am grinning in most of the photos.

The finish line is high tech and rather starry. That’s 3:51:51. I’ll take that. As my husband pointed out, given that the goal was only ever to get back into training and to get active again, I had already “won” before I even got to the start line. I do hope this encourages other people to have a go. Seriously, if I can do it, pretty much anyone could.

PS: The London Triathlon people must have facial recognition technology that rivals MI5 because, by 6am the next day, 20 photos of me doing the race plopped into my inbox.


It’s pretty spectator friendly. There are lots of opportunities to watch athletes. As you can see from the photo above, you can get a good view of the start from the balcony above the docks. The cycle route is quite open and easy to get to (near the transition area). It’s a good idea to give your supporters a likely start and finish time for each leg as the best opportunity for support is at the transitions or at the finish.  My 12 year old daughter enjoyed it. My 7 year old son pronounced it “a massive bore” (for which he received a clip around the ear – no, not really).

Thank you

I want to thank my family (for getting me there and back and supporting me at the event), Gill and Dawnie of TriNSwimWell (for their patient, and ultimately successful, open water rehab), Josh White and Jenny Brackley (for all the improvements they have made to my swimming over the past year), Alice Barnes (for all her kindness and good advice on the day and for rekindling my interest in triathlon last year by selling me my first Tri-suit), Caroline Baker and Jane Meggitt (for dragging my sorry bottom up and down hills), Simon Brown (for his encouragement and good company) and Ashley Meggit and the fantastic committee and organisers of Meridian Triathlon Club. Joining MTC was definitely the best thing I did this year. J

And finally …

My Just Giving page for MacMillan is open! I only set it up very late because (for various reasons) I wasn’t 100% confident I would make it to the start line. But I did – and then the finish line too! So if you want to sponsor me after the event, please feel free! Thanks.

My verdict:

Organisation: 10/10

Course: Swim 9/10 (spectacular setting and plenty of room means that swimmers of all abilities are happy); Bike 6/10 (you get to see some iconic sights on the way around, but marks are deducted for the difficulties around Canary Wharf and the amount of the course that is actually underground!); Run 5/10 (not particularly inspiring but saved by the great views of the docks).

PB potential: 5/10 (The bike is fairly flat and quite fast in places on wide, newish roads but I have marked this down because of the distances back to transition after the swim and the particular challenges around Canary Wharf).


Comments are closed.