You’ve probably heard of Yorkshire’s Brownlee brothers. The Olympic triathletes are famous for their ability and medals and because the older one Alistair pushed his ailing sibling Jonny over the finishing line ahead of him in a gruelling race in Mexico.
Yorkshire’s “Other Triathlon Brothers” Peter and Paul Mathieson are not nearly as well-known but are definitely ones to watch out for in 2017. Over the last ten years the pair have organised about 80 triathlons across God’s Own Country and seen more than 30,000 participants.
In July they’ll be hosting the Ripon Triathlon which will, for the first time, be a Triathlon England National Standard Distance Championship event and a GB Age Group Qualifier for the ITU Age Group World Championships. And, as well as organising their other triathlons, the Mathiesons are arranging two brand new ‘Dirty Hero’ obstacle course challenges and celebrating a decade in business by competing in one of their own events.
The brothers have come a long way from the 1980s when they first became triathletes, when the Brownlee boys were little or twinkles in their parents’ eyes. Peter and Paul ended up competing in around 200 triathlons between them, around the world, from Europe to South Africa and Hawaii. Since they set up Freebird Events in 2007 they’ve seen all sorts of people take part, including eight-year-olds and their oldest competitor, an 86-year-old man. “He finished to the loudest cheer of the day,” said Peter, 60, a former quantity surveyor and driving instructor who taught soldiers to drive lorries.
He emphasises that virtually anyone can do a triathlon, including those who’ve been injured or ill or are overweight. “One lady hadn’t exercised for more than 20 years and weighed 18 stone. She began exercising and within two years lost an incredible 6 stone. She got fitter, did her first triathlon and has since done several more.”
Until 2009 the Mathiesons were also involved in coaching youngsters – well over 500 of them – including Laurence Whiteley, who became a Paralympic rowing gold medallist. The brothers are keen for children and teenagers to do more sport. Paul, 51, said: “Triathlons boost confidence, there’s plenty of time outside, off gadgets and away from school or university pressures. Taking part can help to improve mental health as well as physical health.” The former electrician added: “There’s so much camaraderie involved too, especially in a club.”
It’s often parents doing sport that inspires children and that’s what happened with the brothers. Their father raced in Scotland on a fixed-wheel bike with one gear, before the war. “He’d finish work for the weekend then cycle from Aberdeen to Glasgow, more than 140 miles, for a Saturday morning time trial and then cycle home,” said Peter, a cyclist before he did triathlons.
The world of sport and triathlons has changed a lot since the Mathiesons got involved. “When I took part in my first open water swim in the North Sea in the 80s I didn’t wear a wetsuit, leading to hypothermia,” said Paul, a runner before he became a triathlete. “We just made do! Thankfully it’s different now. But a triathlon is not an elitist sport, we welcome everyone, there’s no need to feel overawed or worry if you don’t have flashy gear.”
The Other Brothers still do short runs each week, bike rides here and there and dog walking, plus climbing when there’s time. They’re looking forward to a year of fun and fitness for themselves and their customers. As Peter said: “We hope more people will get hooked on triathlons, just as we did!”