Teacher’s rise to ironman glory

Ironman Matthew Turnbull
Ironman Matthew Turnbull

page 7 sep 29 staff pics lead

A TEACHER-turned-ironman who started doing triathlons for charity is now comepting against some of the country’s fittest men.

Matthew Turnbull has had a dramatic rise in the world of endurance after deciding to do a triathlete in memory of his granddad and best friend’s mum.

He has gone from nervously preparing for his first event to brushing shoulders with the country’s best amateurs in the space of just six months.

He has ran, cycled and swam in a host of gruelling competitions and is looking to push himself as far as he can go.

The 33-year-old is also still determined to carry on his fundraising work, with his latest epic challenge being a 186-mile bike ride from Hartlepool to Fife, in Scotland, in just 12 hours.

Matthew, from Seaton Carew, hopes to set off at 5am on Saturday, October 1, and arrive at Glenrothes at 7pm the same day.

He told the Mail: “What was going to be a couple of novice triathlons have become full-length and quite serious. Now I’m being invited to the national rallies.

“I’m racing with guys who race with the Great Britain team. I still have a long way to go but I’m being taken seriously, it seems like it’s something that I’m naturally quite good at.

“Hopefully, if I keep working hard, I will be able to compete with these guys for real and get up to the top.”

Matthew started the endurance sport after “feeling useless” at seeing his best friend Dominic Behar’s mum Liz Hodgkiss, 61, die from cancer in December last year and the loss of his granddad, Norman Turnbull.

Liz was cared for by specialist nurses from Macmillan Cancer Support and seeing them in action spurred Matthew into wanting to give something back for the excellent work they did while she was suffering from the illness.

The dad-of-two has been backed by wife Kelly, 33, who is a nurse at One Life Hartlepool, and sons Dylan, four, and three-year-old Ben.

Matthew, who teaches English and drama at Grangefield School, Stockton, revealed his family and those he races for are the secret behind his success.

He added: “I always write the names of the people I am running for on my arm.

“When you are being lashed sideways with ice-cold wind and pouring rain you look at them and you know there’s not a force on Earth that will make you stop.

“It has been a life-changing experience and doing it makes me feel quite useful. I feel like I am doing what I couldn’t do when Liz was alive, I’m helping the service that helped her.”

Matthew has so far raised more than £1,600 for the charity.

Anyone wanting to support Matthew’s fundraising campaign can sponsor him by visiting www.justgiving.com/matthewturnbull