A bike, swim and run with King Henry and friends

PUBLISHED: 17:31 30 September 2009 | UPDATED: 15:53 16 August 2010

MORE than 1,200 competitors tackled an inaugural triathlon in the historic grounds of Hever Castle on Sunday, writes Martin Sawden.

MORE than 1,200 competitors tackled an inaugural triathlon in the historic grounds of Hever Castle on Sunday, writes Martin Sawden.

The 16th century home of Henry VIII's second wife, Anne Boleyn, welcomed the hordes hell bent on some sporting competition fit for a king or queen.

Those taking on the full distance Henry VIII course would have to complete 800m in the castle lake, then 40km on a bike over hilly lanes and an 8km run through the castle grounds.

Competitors taking on the daintier Anne Boleyn course would cover half the distance.

Doing the relay event for the Times team in wave 11, deputy editor Kate Bryson lined up for the King Henry swim phase, getting some last-minute advice from Paul Maddox, of Albany Park, who would do the bike, handing over to reporter Martin Sawden for the run.

They were joined by entries from Dartford and Whiteoak Tri Club, Orpington Road Runners, Blackheath and Bromley Harriers, and Petts Wood Runners.

Words of encouragement came from the royal duo, dressed in full regalia on the lake's balcony steps.

Four orange buoy markers stretched into the distance, a starting cannon triggering a flurry of arms and legs, thrashing for position.

After about eight minutes of hard swimming, Kate executed a perfect back-stroke manoeuvre round the far buoy to head for terra firma.

Exhausted, she emerged 18th out of 84, running up the hill to hand over to Paul and his carbon fibre rocket ship.

Time stood still in the transition area, the leafy tranquillity of the castle grounds belying the furious peddling of cyclists out on the country lanes. Tick followed tock as thousands of spectators waited for friends and family to return.

Then disaster, Paul emerges crest-fallen after a double puncture. After mending one wheel at the side of the road, he continued but noticed the front was crippled.

Showing true British grit he ran the rest of the loop, 6km, with his bike on his shoulder back to the start - in cleated bike shoes, no mean feat.

Taking over from Paul now it was all about pride as I went two loops of the 4km run round the lake and through the castle entrance. Fresh as a daisy, weaving through a stream of pour souls who had done the swim and bike, the midday sun beat down. Freshness quickly turned to torrential sweat and old King Henry must have smirked as leaden thighs hit the hilly climbs, lungs bursting.

Runners were greeted at the finish line by the King and Queen, presented with medals, rounding off a perfect day of healthy competition.

Team Kentish Times team finished in fourth place in Wave 11 with a time of 2:09:47.

David Allison came 63rd for Petts Wood Runners. Keith Blackshaw, from Bromley, finished 17th in Wave 9, followed by Claire Clarke, of Orpington Road Runners in 34th.

Sheridan Morris, of Blackheath and Bromley Harriers came 63rd in Wave 7 followed by Justin Somerville-Cotton, of Petts Wood Runners in 69th.

Gregory Ryan, of Dartford and Whiteoak Tri Club won Wave 3 of the Anne Boleyn race in 1:07:40.

Jim Burdett from Tri Sport News won the Henry VIII race in a time of 1:53:32.

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