Award-winning triathlete says it’s all about the power of the mind

Hartlepool Sports Council Awards at Seaton Carew Sports & Social Club, last night, Sports Personality of the Year winner Matt Turnbull, presented by Monica Vaughan chair of the management committee Seaton Carew Sports & Social Club.
Hartlepool Sports Council Awards at Seaton Carew Sports & Social Club, last night, Sports Personality of the Year winner Matt Turnbull, presented by Monica Vaughan chair of the management committee Seaton Carew Sports & Social Club.

To get through over 140 miles in one day requires a body built of iron.

And to do that day after day for one week needs a mind and will as strong as that body.

I’m very much a believer that your mind is the limit not your body

MATT TURNBULL

Meet Matt Turnbull, Hartlepool’s Sports Personality of the Year.

The 39-year-old teacher became the first triathlete to win the coveted town award, which has been held by the great and good of sport.

But the phrase triathlete barely does him justice.

Matt is a specialist in Ironman, that unique race, some might say torture, when competitors complete a 2.4-mile open-water-swim, followed by a 112-mile bike ride.

To visualise that, it’s like jumping on two wheels at Clavering and pedalling to Sheffield and after that it’s a marathon run, 26.2 miles.

Turnbull did that SEVEN times in successive days, going through the pain barrier to swim, cycle and run the thick end of 1,000 miles for the Tiny Lives charity.

“I found Ironman when I looked at swimming the Channel,” said Matt, who has won bronze at the European Duathlon Championship (run-bike-run) and a silver at the England Duathlon.

“I wasn’t a good enough swimmer to do that, but through that I found a sport for me.

“If you can do all three to a decent level then you will be good at that sport.

“It was the test of physical and mental that brought me to do it and possibly why I have done so well in it.

“It’s required a lot of discipline, a lot of training and a lot of sacrifice.

“That brought me to this challenge and do something no-one has done in this country.

“A single Ironman race has a drop-out rate of something like 20%, because of how tough it is.

“I did an Ironman back in 2011 and thought ‘what would it take to do seven?’

“I’m very much a believer that your mind is the limit not your body.

“It’s about strength of mind – I spent a lot of time about visualisation, or psycho-biological adaptations which gets the brain as strong as the body.

“I knew in my mind I was going to do it.

“While you have it all planned, it does not stop your body breaking down and feeling in pretty dire straits because of fatigue.

“I did have an ankle injury on day four, but I couldn’t stop – there was so much on the line.

“Some close friends of mine had lost their newborn baby and that spurred me on to raise as much money as possible.

“I knew I wasn’t going to fail because of that and I wanted to inspire my boys and show that whatever target you set yourself in life you can do.

“Whether that’s work, life, hobby, that’s kind of how I succeeded, with passion, belief and the love around me.”

His amazing efforts raised almost £10,000 for Tiny Lives, which is based in the neonatal unit at the Royal Victoria Infirmary in Newcastle and helps care for premature and sick newborn babies.

The love around him comes from friends and family, especially wife, Kelly, and sons, Dylan and Ben.

Matt, who has raced for GB at European and World level, said it was a thrill to receive the trophy at Seaton Carew Sports & Social Club, surrounded by his family: “It doesn’t get any better than this.”