Peggy Crome, 77 from Devon, first represented Great Britain in 1986 at the European Championships in Milton Keynes, competing internationally 42 times and winning 16 gold medals since.
“By the beginning of the eighties, I’d brought up two children on my own and wanted to get back to being physically active,” she said. “Having smoked over 20 years I couldn’t run 100 metres without stopping for a rest, so decided to give up the cigarettes and start jogging.
“Giving up smoking was the hardest thing I’ve done but it was worth it. I challenged myself to quit and run two miles without stopping and achieved it, but that was just the beginning for me.”
Crome set about making running her sport and completed multiple half and full marathons, including the London Marathon twice, before hearing about a triathlon local to her in 1985. Then 43, Crome couldn’t have imagined what the next 35 years would bring.
“When I found out about the Barnstaple Triathlon I thought ‘why not?’,” she commented. “I taught myself to swim front crawl and entered the event in 1985. Back then triathlon was seen as a male, macho sport and I was one of only two women alongside 57 men.
“I finished near the bottom of the results sheet but I was so pleased because I’d done it and was ready for more.”
Throughout the 1980s, Crome completed multiple triathlons across the country including the European Championships in Milton Keynes where she won gold, although she adds, that this was by virtue of being the only 40+ female in the race.
In 1994, she had her first taste of a World Championships in Wellington, New Zealand as part of the recently formed Great Britain Age-Group Team.
Each year, British Triathlon allocate qualifiers to represent the national Age-Group Team at World Triathlon and Europe Triathlon sprint and standard distance championships for triathlon and duathlon, with British Triathlon members also able to submit times to qualify for longer distance and other multisport championships.
“I was so proud to be wearing a GB kit and represent my country,” Crome reflected. “I finished 18th out of 36 but the result was irrelevant because I, at 49, had represented Great Britain in a World Age-Group Triathlon Championships.
“I’ve been able to race in the GB kit 42 times at some fantastic places around the world including Hawaii, USA, China and a host of countries across Europe. This year I’m looking forward to racing in another new place, Bermuda, for the World Triathlon Sprint Championships which is a long way from where I first started back in Barnstaple.”
In her 35 years of triathlon, Crome has seen a lot of change but is far from finished with potentially four Age-Group races to look forward to on top of Bermuda and her eyes set on conquering a new age group from 2023 when she moves into the 80-84 category.
“Since I first started, wetsuits have become commonplace, event distances have become standardised and more women are taking part,” Crome added.
“As a relatively ‘new’ sport, triathlon has always had gender equality as a key principle and I think this has helped more and more women take it up.
“For me in my late-seventies, I’m still motivated to get out by my love of swim, bike and run, and, even on my bad days when I’m feeling a bit lazy, once I get up and going all feels right with the world.
“My coach Penny Rother keeps me focussed and Age-Group racing is the highlight of my year. I get to catch up with old friends from across Britain who I’ve got to know through triathlon over many years.
“Competing and visiting other countries and their cultures is prime, and any medals on the journey are the icing on the cake. That said, I like to be at my best when the klaxon roars to kick us all into manic swimming action!”
Having started with not being able to run 100m, Crome is now Britain’s most successful Age-Group triathlete with 16 gold medals among her 27 podium finishes and is adamant that “anyone can do it with the right attitude”.
“Wherever you are in life, you can improve your times,” she said. “Don't worry too much about anyone else, try to improve your own personal swim, bike, run times and chip those seconds and minutes off. You will be so encouraged by your personal improvement.
“I have made lifelong friends and had so many laughs that my experiences through triathlon have been immeasurable and equal to all other achievements.”
To find out more about qualifying to race in the Great Britain Age-Group Team, click on the button below where you can read about qualifying races and criteria in 2021.