Howard Middleton-Jones blog 



In the early 1980’s there were no Triathlon magazines, books or the Internet to reference or ask people how to go about training for a triathlon – there were not even any British clubs until around 1983 (Triathletes Swansea was the first Welsh club to be formed by myself late 1985-early 1986) The British Triathlon Association – BTA – had only been set up in the December of 1982. So how did this cross sport of ‘Triathlon’ take off in UK, and how did it start in Wales? To answer these questions we have to look back a few years earlier and across the pond to USA.

The Early Days: 1971 in the States witnessed a mass jogging craze, everyone put on the running shoes and getting out ‘to fight the flab and keep fit’. In 1972 a Biathlon was organised called the ‘Dave Pain Birthday Biathlon’ consisting of a 4.5 mile run and a quarter mile swim, with a second event the following year. In 1974 a Run-Swim biathlon was held at Fiesta Island, Mission Bay organised by Don Shanahan who also had an ‘unusual’ event in mind. Don wanted to include a bike leg, and so on 25 September the first Triathlon was held – a 6 mile run, 5 mile cycle and a 500 yard swim. (Note there is also a mention of a triathlon being held in 1934 at La Rochelle in France, consisting of a 200 meter swim, 10 K cycle and a 1200 meter run) The results of this US first triathlon were as follows: Bill Phillips 55.44 Greg Gillespie 56.49 David Mitchell 56.57 First woman was Eileen water 71.43 Cutting a long story short, up to 1978 there had been discussion as to what type of athlete was the fitter, cyclist, runner or swimmer? A Commander Collins (ex US Navy) who had taken part in a few previous short course triathlons in Mission Bay California, suggested this debate should be settled through a race combining the three existing long distance championships on the island of Hawaii: the Waikiki rough water swim, 2.4 miles, the around Oahu Bike race, 115 miles and the Honolulu marathon, 26.2 miles. Eventually, cutting off a few miles on the cycle leg, the event was organised and promoted as ‘swim 2.4 miles! Bike 112 miles! Run 26.2 miles, Brag for the rest of your life – and according to Collins, ‘whoever finishes first we’ll call him the ‘Ironman’ 15 entrants started on February 18 1978 of which 12 completed the race. Winner was Gordon Haller, US navy in a time of 11 hours 46 minutes and 58 seconds.

Rushing across the pond to Great Britain, after an initial interest in Triathlon in December 1982, the British Triathlon Association (BTA) was formed by an initiative of Mike Ellis. Previously, upon hearing of the Iron man event in Hawaii, Mike gathered a few athletes to compete in the 1982 Nice Triathlon.

In 1983 the word of the sport of Triathlon started to spread rapidly, and after reading in a weekend newspaper of the formation of the BTA I began to cross train for this ‘new’ and innovative sport. Being an ex national swimmer, the swim training was no problem, and I had done some fell and x country running at college, it was just the bike I had to increase my time on. Initially it was a trial and error approach, especially with the transitions, there were no clubs in Wales, and only a handful in England, no magazines (except for the American Triathletes magazine) and certainly no Internet or Facebook to ask and receive instantaneous answers on the many questions that arose during training.

77.jpg (363027 bytes)

First Publication of ‘Triathlon’ magazine, 1983, courtesy of Harold Johnson editor – more information on the history of the magazine here http://trihistory.com/features/birth-triathlete-magazine-insiders-story

By 1984 I had competed in a few triathlons and was in regular touch with the BTA, and so by 1985/6 we had set up the Welsh Triathlon Association – WTA and for a few years was the Welsh Representative and referee at a number of Triathlon events. By 1985/86 I had set up the first Welsh Triathlon Club, Triathletes Swansea, and gathered a number of athletes from a wide variety of sports. Previous to that it was a matter of contacting a few runners in Cardiff to occasionally meet up at the Swansea University Sports centre to have a few mixed cross training sessions. By 1986 I had competed in quite a few triathlons and being just over the age of 40 won the Welsh vets title in that year.

75.jpg (299320 bytes)

In 1986 I organised the Pontardawe Tinman Triathlon and a couple of years later, 1988, the much bigger and more challenging Excalibur Triathlon in Port Eynon, now called the ‘Gower Triathlon. In 2018 the Port Eynon event will see its 30th year!


 In 1989, I was team manager for Wales for the first ever Home Countries National championships held at Hexham. Wales won the event and I still have the shield to prove it!

76.jpg (671812 bytes)


Photo above – Bath Triathlon 1990 – from right, myself, Steve Trew and Bill Pegler, the three Vet champs.

On going back into University in 1990, I set up the Swansea University triathlon club (2015 will see its 25th year since inception). We attracted quite a strong team at the University and with Triathletes Swansea competed in a number of events in those early years – especially the Sligo (Ireland) half ironman where we took part over a number of years. 

Also in 1990, Triathlon was selected as a demonstration sport at the Commonwealth games (Auckland New Zealand) and I was invited to be Wales team manager. Unfortunately, due to the length of time in New Zealand, my University work and looking after my then two young girls I had to decline the offer – Now Triathlon is a fully fledged sport in both the Commonwealth and Olympic Games.

From 1983 to 1996 I had competed in over 100 Triathlons and biathlons – one day in the not too distant future I hope to add a few more to the list. In 2016 I will be just creeping into the 70-74 age group; it seems like only yesterday when people asked you what you were training for and on explaining, they replied ‘Tri what??’ The rest, as they say, is history

Howard Middleton-Jones – 2015


73.jpg (367653 bytes) Watch an interview with Howard about the early days in triathlon on you-tube



I took a spin to the Mumbles for an interview with Howard Middleton-Jones, the founder of Triathletes Swansea and the organiser of the first race in the Swansea, Neath and Port Talbot area, the Valley Tinman Triathlon. This week saw the 35th anniversary of this swim bike run event which was held at Pontardawe swimming pool in the Swansea Valley.




original blog pages - http://www.ambilacuk.com/seminars/blogs.html



Search the website with Google