It was a winter challenge across the Atlantic for Steeple Chasers Running and Cycling Club as they embarked on a virtual club challenge to swim, bike and run the equivalent of the 3,500-mile distance between their village base in Cambridgeshire to New York.
Throughout the month of January, the club covered over 5,350 miles in total for the challenge, nearly 2,000 miles more than the distance they had set out to achieve. In fact, their final distance saw the club come close to reaching Los Angeles on the west coast of the USA.
“The four teams were each named after famous Hollywood actors, so we had Team Streisand, Team Cruise, Team Johannson and Team Goldberg, each with 10 members,” club founder Victoria Bovill-Lamb said.
“As a club, the target was to reach New York by swimming, biking and running, obviously all virtual. There was a bit of a competition between the teams to see who could cover the most distance and it was a challenge that ran throughout the month of January.
“Everyone really bought into it. We had people doing multiple hour Zwift sessions, people going out and running quite big distances. At the end of each day, we would track the progress and see where each team was and it was fantastic to be able to complete the challenge as a club.”
The virtual challenge was one of a number of activities the Steeple Morden-based club organised over the winter months including community activator runs, a Couch to 5k course, Sunday morning brick sessions and swimming sessions in a private swimming pool.
“There’s definitely been lots going on,” Bovill-Lamb commented. “We have four community activators, and they have all been running different sessions each week; whether that’s in the morning, evening or at lunchtime, to make sure there is something for everybody.
“We’ve had some club members and also the wider community taking part in Couch to 5k runs. The first run of the week is led by the community activators on a Sunday morning and then the other two runs they do later in the week, and we also add a points element to it so they can get additional points if they go swimming, cycling or do a yoga or Pilates class.
“On Sundays I’ve hired the village hall for a couple of hours which is where the Couch to 5k runs start from, but also other members turn up, especially those who are interested in doing their first triathlon. We’ve been doing a 10k bike course circuit followed by a 2.5k run, it’s to get athletes used to a quick transition from bike to run. Then we all come into the village hall and have homemade cake and tea and live up to our club motto of ‘powered by cake’.”
Aside from the cake and the star bakers within the club, there’s also been a focus on adding the swim element of triathlon to the club’s training programme.
“We are a running and cycling club and it’s my aspiration to get us into a triathlon club and the biggest challenge has been getting our members into the open water,” Bovill-Lamb added. “Last year I got an open water swimming coach to host beginner sessions in a local lake., I honestly thought I would get two at most, 24 turned up.
“From there, I have got a little offshoot of the club and it’s for women who want to do triathlon for the first time, so we’ve been working on adding a swim side to the club. There is someone in the village who has their own indoor pool, and he kindly lets us have it free for two hours a week so, although there’s no coaching, it’s just a friendly, group of friends getting together, doing drills between us, which is great.”
It's a club that has seen a rapid rise since first forming in January 2020 and it all started from a Facebook post in the village group.
“I put out a Facebook post on the local village group asking if anyone was interested in joining me doing Couch to 5k,” Bovill-Lamb recalled.
“I have multiple sclerosis so I was just coming back from illness, and I was thinking that I would just get two ‘likes’ and nothing else, I pitched up at the village hall one morning and about 14 ladies all turned up.
“Now we have over 60 members, the majority women, and five of the members from the original Couch to 5k course have gone on to run half-marathons and marathons which is amazing, and I’m slowly getting more and more women at the club thinking of doing their first triathlon. Two have already competed in GO TRI, including a Tri Dog event, with a couple more doing duathlons in March.”