Having been a successful runner, a chance encounter with a group of triathletes saw Sarah Barrett change sport and, at 72, she hasn’t looked back.
“I was active all throughout my childhood, however, only took up running competitively in my late thirties,” explained Barrett. “I won the first marathon I took part in which was a total surprise, and the success spurred me on.”
In 1999, aged 52 and having moved to Bournemouth with her husband, Barrett was swimming in a local leisure centre when a group of triathletes approached her.
“I was swimming lengths one day when one of the triathletes came over and asked if I’d considered taking part in triathlon,” Barrett said. “They knew I could run as I’d continued doing marathons since moving and had seen me swimming regularly at the pool.
“The cycling was the discipline I needed to work at but, thankfully, my husband is an ex-racing cyclist and with his help I got back on my bike.”
Training alongside the triathletes at the leisure centre and with Zoom Triathlon Club, Barrett soon found her feet in triathlon.
“Members of the club talked about representing the Great Britain Age-Group Team and I wasn’t really sure what it was all about.
“I was their level so decided to go along to the qualifier events because it seemed like a natural next step to go from competing domestically to competing internationally.”
Age-Group Team qualifiers take place around Britain, enabling participants to register and qualify to represent the team at European and International Championships.
Barrett qualified to compete for Great Britain for the first time at the World Championships in Cancun in 2002, and it was an experience that changed the way she has competed ever since.
“That sense of pride and achievement to represent your country has never left me,” Barrett explained. “No matter how many times I’ve done it, to wear the GB kit and race with the team is something I enjoy and revel in.
“You travel and race as part of the team, with other athletes cheering you on and there to offer support and advice around the team hotel.
“British Triathlon send a Team Manager and they’re fantastic. Letting you know all the updates about the event, course recces and organising social opportunities for the team.”
Racing is only one part of the experience however, with the relationships that Barrett has made spanning multiple seasons and multiple continents.
“I’ve made some great friends in the Great Britain Team because you get to know people across the age groups that you see at domestic and overseas events,” added Barrett.
“With the number of athletes who race in my age group relatively small, you also get to know people from other countries as you see them year after year and stay in touch outside of competition.”
Representing Great Britain has taken Barrett to some parts of the world she never thought she would.
“Beijing in 2011 was phenomenal,” she said. “If it wasn’t for triathlon then I definitely wouldn’t have visited, but I’m so glad I had the opportunity as it was a great experience.
“I’ve been part of the team since 2002 and would recommend it to anyone. Don’t hold back, just go and find a qualifier to have a go at and see where it takes you.”
Qualifiers to be part of the Great Britain Age-Group Team in 2021 are taking place throughout this year. Follow the link below to find out more about the team and register for a qualifier.