Skipping for 71 years – and not stopping
Meet the amazing triathlete who’s the oldest British woman to complete an Ironman.
Eddie Brocklesby is an inspiration to those who run, bike, swim and take part in triathlons. She’s also a huge inspiration for everyone else, whether you regularly keep fit or don’t know where to start.
Brocklesby is the oldest British woman to have completed an Ironman – the world’s toughest triathlon challenge comprising of a 2.4 mile swim, a 112 mile bike ride, and a full 26.2 mile marathon. She’s taken part in a record ten Ironman challenges and has successfully completed the gruelling course six times.
What’s especially surprising is Brocklesby only took up running in her early 50s, and she credits getting active with friends as the main reason why she continued to keep going with it.
“I’d done very little exercise before I took up running in my fifties, as I’d been focusing on raising my family (Brocklesby has three children and four grandchildren) and my career as a social worker,” she explains.
“The idea of getting into running actually started when I was watching a friend taking part in a marathon. I said to my husband that I’d quite like to do a half-marathon, even though I’d never thought about running before. It then became a personal challenge to get into running so I could eventually build up to doing a race distance.
“I’ve always found running with others was key for me rather than running alone. I started off learning to run with a few friends and then later joined a friendly and supportive local running club in Nottinghamshire where I was living at the time.”
Running as part of a community has always been important to Brocklesby. She loved the experience of running her first race (the London Marathon) with members of her then running club.
A move to London a couple of years later led to her joining the Serpentine Running Club, where she is still a member. She credits the club for having played a key role in her life for more than 20 years.
When Brocklesby’s running club branched out into cycling and swimming to become a triathlon as well as running club, a new world opened for her. She competed in her first triathlon at 58, and has fond memories.
“My first triathlon (London Triathlon) was such a fantastic experience,” she says, casually adding, “I’m actually doing it again this year.
“The night before my first time, I was so nervous. I didn’t think I could possibly get in the water and swim, but I did manage it, albeit slowly. Even now, swimming is still something that I don’t find all that easy.”
As well as running, Brocklesby loves to get on her bike. She is sponsored by Liv Cycling and thoroughly enjoys the cycling aspect of triathlon. The hillier and more challenging the bike ride, the better as far as Brocklesby is concerned.
One of her highlights was completing her first Nove Colli bike race aged 69. It’s renowned as one of Italy’s oldest yet toughest cycling events. The race encompasses nine major hills and covers 28km (17 miles).
Brocklesby has a real love of Lanzarote and it’s her favourite place to train and race. Appropriately enough, it was also the location for her first Ironman (and a few subsequent ones too). Brocklesby had been to Lanzarote on three occasions previously to support her son when he was taking part in Ironman challenges.
“I was standing in an area that I love in Lanzarote while watching out for my son one year and that’s when I thought I’d really like to have a go myself,” she explains. “So it was brilliant to be able to complete my first Ironman in Lanzarote along with my son when I was 65.”
“It’s changed a lot from when I started racing. When I did my fourth London Marathon in 2005 aged 62, I came second in my 60-64 age group with a time of 3.45 (her marathon personal best). I wouldn’t come anywhere near that ranking now and that’s absolutely a reflection of the increased numbers of women that participate in races across all age groups.”
“I always wear my Serpentine running club top, as many people recognise the vivid red and yellow colouring and will urge you on during races, even when they don’t know who the runner is.”
“I always like to have a good breakfast. It will usually include one or two eggs and I like to have fruit juice too. If it’s necessary, I’ll get up two or three hours before a race is due to start to make time to have a good breakfast as I think it’s important.”
“I tend to take High 5 energy bars with me to snack on and I also make sure I have a good stock of protein bars to help with my recovery post-race.”
She’s also participated in Race Across America (an ultra-distance road cycling race) three times and will be competing again this summer. It’s a demanding race and the aim is to complete the 3,000-mile (4,828km) course as quickly as possible.
Brocklesby is part of a relay team known as the Serpentine Golden Girls. The four women take it in turns cycling in pairs for six to eight hours before switching over. In 2019, her relay team was just 300 miles from the finish when disaster struck.
“My partner had a horrible crash when we were going downhill in the dark,” Brocklesby recounts. “Luckily, the driver of our support vehicle was also a nurse, which was so fortunate. My partner had a really bad fall and was in intensive care for a week. She’s made a full recovery and we’re determined to finish Race Across America this year.
“If we’re successful, I’ll hold the race record for being the oldest female finisher.” Brocklesby will be 80 in late March and says Race Across America is her focus for 2023.
She’s also incredibly tenacious. When the going gets tough in a race, Brocklesby keeps ploughing onwards. As part of completing her sixth Ironman in Vichy, France, she had to endure riding for eight hours straight in 36C (96F) heat.
During her tenth Ironman, she endured a particularly tough swim and although she made it out of the water ahead of the cut-off time, she wasn’t in a good way and had to withdraw.
“I had real issues with my goggles during the swim and when I came out, I could hardly see,” she explains. “I don’t think I had rinsed out the lens cleansing fluid as well as I normally would, and it had badly affected my eyes. I ended up being taken by ambulance to an eye hospital, so my tenth Ironman wasn’t a nice experience.”
At the moment, she has no plans to do another Ironman as she’s focused on training for her forthcoming events including the Prudential Ride 100, Race Across America and the London Triathlon later in the year.
Brocklesby hadn’t considered running or doing an Ironman before she was inspired by watching friends and loved ones participating in races. Now, she loves to line up next to them and says age definitely shouldn’t put anyone off getting fit.
“If I can start running in my 50s and go on to become the oldest British woman to complete an Ironman, anyone can,” she advises. “It’s never too late to do a little more physical exercise. Even if you start by walking around the block and try doing it a little faster every week, you will gradually get fitter.
“If you can get into an exercise routine with friends that’s even better as you can motivate each other. Parkrun is brilliant for helping more people to get active too. It’s free and open to everyone whether you want to walk or run the 5k distance.”
Brocklesby set up the charity Silverfit in 2013 with the aim of encouraging happier, healthier ageing through physical activity. Ten years on, Silverfit sessions are now available in 12 London boroughs across 17 different venues.
People come together to meet up socially, enjoy refreshments and take part in an hour of activity. Nordic walking is very popular. Other options include Bollywood fitness, yoga, tai chi, spinning, and walking football with Arsenal football club.
A form of physical activity that involves walking with the aid of long poles. It’s a great upper and lower body workout.
A toning cardio workout where you will be dancing to Bollywood and Latin-inspired music.
“Loneliness and isolation can be a real issue, particularly for older women, and when they take part in Silverfit sessions, it helps them to get outside and have fun,” Brocklesby explains. “I think that’s what makes Silverfit such a success story, as we’re helping people to meet others, make friends, gain confidence, and improve their fitness too.”
In 2019, Brocklesby’s charity work was recognised with the award of a British Empire Medal for services to the health and wellbeing of older people.
For more information about Silverfit, visit silverfit.org.uk
Written by Julie Penfold she/her
Julie Penfold is a Staff Writer for Fitness and Wellbeing at Saga Exceptional. She’s been a specialist health and wellbeing journalist for more than 15 years and has been a finalist in three prestigious health and medical journalism awards during that time.
She has written for a wide variety of health, medical, wellbeing and fitness magazines and websites. These have included Running, TechRadar, Outdoor Fitness, Be Healthy, Top Sante, Doctors.net.uk, Primary Health Care, Community Practitioner, CareKnowledge and The Guardian’s Social Care network.
Away from work, Julie is a huge Sunderland fan, loves watching football, athletics and swimming (live whenever possible!) and is a long-term vegetarian. She also loves to run, swim and practise yoga.
Previously, she loved to race too but since 2018, this has been firmly put on the backburner due to her having back-to-back sports injuries, both of which required subsequent surgery. Julie was gearing up to a return to racing after five years, but a further injury has hampered her imminent plans. Instead, recovering well is top of her list at the moment.