Newcastle couple proves they’re iron tough

August 1, 2008

By Jim Feehan

Cindy and Ben Bigglestone, of Newcastle, have competed in many triathlons together around the world. Photo by Jim Feehan

For Cindy and Ben Bigglestone, competing in Ironman triathlons is a family affair. The Newcastle couple has participated in triathlons from Malaysia to the Canary Islands.

Cindy met Ben five years ago at a pre-race barbecue at a Canadian Ironman competition in Penticton, British Columbia. They met again the following year at a Canadian Ironman event and that same year they both qualified for the World Ironman race in Hawaii, a race that serves as the Ironman world championship.
Running is a passion for Cindy and Ben. Cindy, 33, works as an exercise physiologist and personal trainer.

Ben, 35, trains triathletes. He also coaches Cindy, who has raced competitively for the past 10 years.

“It’s a tough relationship to coach your significant other,” Ben said.

Under Ben’s tutelage, Cindy is quick to point out that her times have improved.

“Performing well in a triathlon is a huge sense of fulfillment,” Cindy said. “It validates what you do and it has a positive effect on your health and fitness.”

Growing up in Hereford, England, in the West Midlands region of England (about 16 miles east of the border with Wales), Ben was something of a fitness buff.

His father was a member of the Special Air Service, a Special Forces regiment within the British Army, which had its headquarters in Hereford. The elite military unit is comparable to the U.S. Army Special Services or Delta Force.

The SAS motto, “Who Dares Wins” is prophetic. Endurance and stamina are hallmarks of the SAS, unit, Ben said.

“I think it rubbed off on me,” he said. “It has guided me well and I aspired to be like the SAS.”

At 16, he competed in his first triathlon. He also played rugby, soccer and volleyball, and ran cross country. In 1990, he was the European junior champion in the triathlon.

“Exercise was my passion, my outlet,” he said.

In 1995, Ben graduated with honors from Leeds University in England with degrees in exercise physiology and exercise psychology. After college, he ran a corporate wellness program for a financial management consulting company in York, England. Ben also trained with Andy McNab, a former British soldier turned novelist. In 1993, McNab wrote “Bravo Two Zero,” about a failed SAS mission during the Gulf War.

In 2000, Ben competed in his first Ironman in Austria.

“It was tremendous and I was hooked from there,” he said.

Five years later, he moved to the U.S., married Cindy and the couple settled in Newcastle. Since moving to the U.S., Ben helped co-found the Sammamish Valley Triathlon Team with his wife.

A triathlon is an endurance sports event consisting of swimming, cycling and running various distances. A number of triathlon events of varying distances are held around the world.

An iron distance triathlon consists of a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike, and a 26.2-mile run. It is considered by many to be the ultimate endurance test. The sport of triathlon was added as an Olympic sport at the 2000 Summer Olympics in Sydney as a shorter distance race (about a mile swim, roughly a 25-mile cycle and 6.2-mile run.)

Last year, Ben placed third at the Issaquah Sprint Triathlon (a sprint triathlon consisting of a half-mile swim, a 12.4-mile bike ride and a 3.1-mile run), fifth at the Canadian Long Course Championships in Osoyoos, British Columbia, and first at the Beaver Lake Triathlon in Sammamish.

Last month, Ben finished 10th in the 10.4-mile Cougar Mountain Trail Run, while Cindy finished seventh in the women’s division and 52nd overall. The couple enjoys training on Cougar Mountain and along the back roads of May Valley.

“There’s a sense of achievement, of pushing yourself past your limit in triathlons,” Cindy said. “You want to move outside your comfort zone and become better at each discipline.”

And don’t expect to see the Bigglestones slow down anytime soon.

“We’re both very active people,” Ben said. “I see us racing in our 60s and 70s.”

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