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The kingdom’s fitness fanatics, along with premier athletes from around the world, will be converging on land and sea this weekend for the annual Ironman 70.3 Middle East Championship Bahrain.
The gruelling triathlon, featuring a swim, a bike ride and a run, will take place on Saturday and encompass a point-to-point race that passes by the island’s new and historic attractions.
Whilst many eyes will be on the professionals who are competing at the latest stop on the world circuit, in many ways it is the amateurs who are the true heroes of the events, competing for personal pride and satisfaction over international glory.
One such competitor is Angus Campbell, 57, who is competing in his first full Ironman a year on from taking part in the swim section as part of a relay team, which also consisted of his friends Fran Treadgold and Tom Reynolds.
The Scotsman, who is the CEO of the Bahrain Financial Harbour Holding Company when he isn’t busy training for the triathlon, was inspired last year by what he saw and has decided to take a step up this year.
He said: “I only did the swim last year, but I was immediately swept in by how great the atmosphere was. Everyone was very supportive and encouraging. To be honest, considering the intensity and pressure, it was very friendly.
“At our level, it isn’t really competitive and your only goal is whatever time you want to achieve personally. There’s no failure … unless you don’t make it across the finish line of course!
“Although I took part in the relay last year and was euphoric just to finish that part, I was overwhelmed by a certain lady, Shaikha Al Shaiba, who was competing in the entire event with one arm.
“I must admit that I felt slightly ashamed not being able to do a full Ironman with all my limbs and being perfectly fit, whilst this inspirational woman did it. That galvanised me to get off my backside and make sure I’d do the whole event.”
Action girl Shaikha was featured in GulfWeekly before the Ironman last year. She lost her arm following complications after treatment to remove a growth, which was discovered when she was six-months-old. Two operations later in Bahrain and gangrene set in, bone cancer was diagnosed and specialists in London had to amputate part of the limb almost up to the shoulder.
She will return to compete again this year having inspired many, including Angus, to step up their game.
He is a member of The House of Prayer, Wheels & Banter Society, made up of a team of enthusiasts who regularly go out cycling and have been also running 5km twice-a-week since January and following YouTube tutorials on technique.
Since then, Campbell has also taken part in four events organised by the Bahrain Triathlon Association, including a sprint triathlon and an Olympic triathlon. He also runs every Saturday at Harbour Gate with other runners, joggers and walkers, and credits the Discipline Academy, a calisthenics and gym centre located at the same location, for improving his strength and conditioning.
He explained: “I’m 57 now, and my goal, since I seriously started training, was to finish a 70.3 before my 60th birthday. If I finish this weekend, then great, and if I can’t quite manage it then I have three more years to try again!
“I’ve had so much support from friends and family. My sincere thanks go to Discipline Academy; Skate Shack Cycling; Go Tri Life; Bahrain Triathlon Association; Boost Bahrain; Hamala Beach Resort, and finally, my son Roddy who purchased a second-hand 1980’s Peugeot aluminium racing bike to enable me to train whilst I visited him in Newfoundland to ride with him while I was there. It’s a lot hillier and colder in Canada, so it’s put me in good stead!
“Last but not least to my long-suffering wife, Janet.
“Ultimately, I’m trying not to set myself a goal as finishing in itself will be a tremendous accomplishment … but if I can get under seven hours, I’ll be delighted.”
This year’s course will kick off at The Avenues Bahrain waters, where one lap of 1.9km will begin and finish at the mall. This event will incorporate a rolling swim start for age group athletes and professional athletes.
Competitors will then transition to the bike, riding from the landmark twisted tower in Bahrain Bay through the city, passing landmarks such as the Bahrain World Trade Centre, Bahrain Financial Harbour, Dilmun Burial Mounds, National Charter Monument, Bahrain International Circuit and then back to Manama.
Finally, there is a three-loop run course on King Faisal Highway, giving spectators a chance to cheer on the athletes. Families and friends can watch and wait for their loved ones next to The Avenues, where the finish line will be situated.