Triathlons – why would you bother at my age?


Half-way round the recent Age-Group World Championships in Rotterdam

Patrick Foster (BSc 1974) spent his spare time during his degree running around the sports field track and along St Andrews’ sandy beaches, but now, more than 40 years on, he finds himself confronted by a whole different challenge as he takes on triathlons across the world. Here, Patrick tells Incomparabubble his story of why he still bothers to push himself, especially in the latter stages of events when the aches and pains kick in!

Seventeen years ago, I’d been a runner, but an injury to my Achilles tendon meant that I had to have a rethink. Triathlons were in the news then as an up and coming sport, so I thought I would try that. Swimming and biking replaced running until my injury healed. Six months were then spent re-learning swimming technique and membership of the Serpentine Running Club provided support and advice as well as the opportunity for early morning, chilly dips (not always welcome).

Once I got started, my bucket list contained some iconic events/rides with qualifying for the Age-Group Triathlon World Championships being the final and most difficult challenge.  One of the highlights was cycling up Mont Ventoux three times in a day!


500 m to go and the strain is obvious


Another highlight was swimming across the Dardanelles from Europe to Asia and twice completing the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon.  One of the more exacting elements was swimming from Alcatraz Island to the mainland: no prisoner ever escaped from the jail, as the water is far too cold.

Over the years I’ve raised money for a number of charities. The more extreme (for that read painful) the challenge the more hands reach into pockets to support.   The aim has been to raise about £10,000 each year, much of it from matched funding programmes.

So why continue? A sense of wellbeing, feeling fit and healthy, enjoying the competition and meeting loads of new people all contribute. But I think the photo below says it all. This was taken after three of us had just competed in the Age-Group Aquathon Championship in Penticton, Canada, this August.


This year’s racing is over and training is on the back burner for now. Next year the World Championships are in Denmark … did I mention the excuse of travelling the world as a bonus?

Since his graduation from St Andrews – and away from running, cycling and swimming – Patrick has forged a successful career in the world of environmental sciences, which has allowed him to continue to stay in touch with the University and his first love, geology. Patrick has been a member of the Advisory Board within the School of Earth and Environmental Science at the University, and a regular supporter of the School’s field trips, further information on which can be found at We wish Patrick all the very best in his upcoming challenge!


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