Exclusive interview with Ironman age group World Champion about her journey to success.
It might surprise you to hear that it wasn’t love at first tri for Ruth Purbrook. The athlete who has gone on to establish herself as one of the rising starts of British triathlon hated her first open water swim, she grins ‘I emerged from the Serpentine in Hyde Park covered in green gunk and thought why do people do this?’.
She’d spent the first half of the year training for the Berlin Marathon with her husband Barney and after months of running it was the mix of sports, people and atmosphere that drew her into the sport. She joined a triathlon club in London in the winter of that year and she’s since experienced something of a meteoric rise through the sport.
Despite her success, she is honest about the challenges of pursuing her sporting dream while holding down her role in Lloyds banking group supporting the Chief Information Officer at the same time, ‘it involves never snoozing the alarm, I get up very early around 5am and fit in a session before work and most days a session work after and there is a lot of training at the weekends. It’s really about discipline and knowing your purpose.’
She talks about the virtues of knowing your why as a tool for driving through the long months of training, I ask her about what that means to her “sometimes I can think back to the winning moment at the end of a race and that drives me forward but when I need something closer to home I focus on the effect of training on my mental health, I use training as a stress relief and I believe I’m better at my day job because of it”.
She has been progressing in the sport for a few years now and has an abundance of advice for athletes who are just starting out. She is a big advocate for finding a club or group of people you can train with, “you will find people [at a club] that are better than you, it pushes you to be better”.
For her own inspiration, she looks to several successful players in within the sport, the 11 x Professional Ironman Champion and Cancer Doctor Lucy Gossage, “She makes a thing about keeping it fun, she does the races she really wants to do. Her philosophy is if I get there, I get there and she has won her last 15 ironman races. Watching someone with that attitude be that successful has taught me to enjoy the experience”.
As her training intensifies, recovery is also rising up her list of priorities. “it’s a focus for me to get better at it this year, I haven’t nailed it yet. Sleep is probably the biggest and best recovery tool, beyond that I’m trying to be more disciplined about building recovery into my routine. I’ve had a few niggles so I’m trying to be better at getting massages and foam rolling and stretching. I’m also investing in a MyoBlaster to experience the benefits of percussive therapy and be able to do that at home”
She’s experienced a few injuries to date, having rolled her ankle three times and experienced major calf tears. She’s worked hard to strengthen her weak points but being out with injury has changed her perspective “it taught me that you can take a break and come back and still be successful. I’ve actually come back from injury feeling much more refreshed and because it’s a multi-discipline sport it’s given me the space to improve other areas.”
She’s achieved a phenomenal amount in her relatively short career in the sport and she visibly lights up when she talks about her age group win at the World Championships in Kona last year. When I ask her about future goals, she chuckles and responds “the dream changes quite a lot” but she would like to go pro and give the sport her undivided attention at some point.
As we wrap-up our chat, I can’t help but feel excited for Ruth’s future. Underneath her humble exterior is a fierce determination and focus, somehow it feels like there’s an inevitability to her future success.
Ruth, we’re rooting for you.