An on-off swimming career gave Great Britain Age-Group athlete Donald Brooks an opportunity to get involved in the world of swim, bike, run and he hasn’t looked back since.
“I come from a swimming background and I swam up until the age of about 11 years old through clubs and fell out of love with swimming. It wasn’t really for me.” He explained. “I got back into swimming at a masters’ club and did a few galas. It’s a sort of different ethos swimming in your 20s than when you’re an early teenager.
“At the swimming pool I used to swim at the local triathlon club did an aquathlon series and my wife is from a running background, so we used to get involved in those because they were on at the pool.
“I sort of got a taste for the multisports elements from there.”
Brooks then began cycling with friends following the success of Bradley Wiggins at the 2012 Tour De France and at the age of 37 he entered his first triathlon. Though it was a bit last minute.
He explained: “I got a Sunday space on the Friday night. I spent Saturday rushing around borrowing and getting equipment, I even bought a trisuit at registration because they had some kit for sale, and I came 14th.
“I had beaten some people I had done some training with and I thought there’s a lot more potential here and I enjoyed it. I started looking around to see what other triathlons there were and entering a few more.
“I really got the bug. Even though it’s an individual sport, when you go to an event you see a lot of the same people,t’s good comradery.”
After his first triathlon, Brooks learnt about the Age-Group programme from a friend who was representing the team at the time in Mallorca. Within a year he won a silver medal at 2015 Weymouth ETU Challenge Long Distance Triathlon Championships. Since that first medal success he has won 16 world and European titles across sprint, supersprint, standard, IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN distance triathlons.
His most recent success came in Pontevedra where he claimed the supersprint and standard distance world titles within 48 hours of each other. The closeness of the events did not bother Brooks though.
He said: “I think if you’re going away to a championship, you may as well do as much racing as you can. People ask me how I race back-to-back, but you train back-to-back, why not race back-to-back.
“You can have your priority race, but I think when you’re racing, you’re racing so you go 100% anyway. It’s not the first time I have done it. I’ve done multiple races a few times, I did it last year in Abu Dhabi and Madrid earlier in the year and they were only 24 hours apart.”
That success in Pontevedra came after he had won the IRONMAN 70.3 and IRONMAN world titles in the four weeks prior to competing in Spain.
“I did four world championships in a four-week period,” he explained. “I am over the moon to cover all the distances from supersprint to full distance.
“It's a really nice feeling to come across the line in first place. I had feedback on the course as well. In the half IRONMAN I was just finishing my first lap of two on the run and someone told me I had an 11-and-a-half-minute lead, so I knew I was comfortable in that one. I ran the last lap, and I enjoyed it. To win it I was really pleased.
“The IRONMAN was a different kettle of fish. I came into T2 with a two minute-40 lead and by the marathon I was racing a different person and I had a nine-and-a-half minute lead. We’d ran the first half at the same pace. He managed to speed up and I slowed down a bit and he was clawing me back in and I only took the lead by 17 seconds. I really, really enjoyed that one. That was one of my biggest wins.”
His success across the distances has now left him with a decision to make as the men’s IRONMAN World Championships returns to Kona in 2024 and the supersprint and standard distance triathlon championships are held in Malaga, Spain.
He said: “Next year I have my qualifications for Europeans and Worlds, but it was announced that the Worlds (standard and supersprint triathlon) is a week before Kona (IRONMAN World Championships). After my result at the IRONMAN Worlds, I have a start in Kona but I think they are too close together to do both. If I did both I’d do well in the Malaga ones (supersprint and standard distances) but I’d not have the full commitment for Kona.
“It’s a big trip and I wouldn’t do myself justice if I tried to do both and went out there and didn’t perform. I need to make a decision for which way I’ll go there.”
While he makes his big decision for 2024, Brooks has some advice for people who are making the decision to get involved in triathlon for the first time or not.
“Go for it.” He urged. “If you haven’t done a triathlon, go to a local one. I’ve been down to a few local ones with my boys and it’s great to see the spectrum of people. From novices, people doing couch to 5k, to some really good cyclists. You get a real mix of people, don’t be scared have a go. Just say yes to things.”