A chat with triathlete Ruth Purbrook - An upcoming age group star

A chat with triathlete Ruth Purbrook - An upcoming age group star

Ruth played hockey throughout her teens and university, until discovering triathlon at a charity event 3.5 years ago. She works full time for Lloyds bank and has worked her way up through the distances from Olympic in 2014 to 70.3 last year and now Ironman. She has won multiple 70.3 distances, coming 3rd in the World Championships last year, and is aiming to qualify for Kona.  She is one of the new members of Team Freespeed and is coached by Will Clarke.

What brought you to triathlon? Do you think that a sporting background as a child is important in order to be competitive in age group racing?

I got into triathlon when I was asked to do one for charity at work – at the time I was training for the Berlin marathon and was pretty bored of just running, and having started doing some cycling with my now husband I thought it could be quite fun. So I did the London Excel Olympic distance triathlon in 2013, and loved the atmosphere and competitive side of it. I then joined my local tri club and it spiraled from there!

I have a relatively sporty background, being one of 4 siblings, all of whom are sporty and competitive – to such an extent that at Christmas if we are together we will have a Xmas morning fell run if we are at my parents in the Lake District. I played mainly hockey throughout my childhood, and continued this at university, and have always done some running (mainly to eat more chocolate!). However, I don’t think you need to have been sporty as a child to be competitive – just mentally have the right attitude to get consistent training in. I know a lot of people who weren’t sporty at all that are excelling in triathlon.

Where do you live now and what benefits and/or limitations does your area have for training?

I live in Putney, which is great for being close to Richmond Park and for getting into the Surrey Hills, however being London based generally it is definitely harder to get proper bike miles in given the time it takes to get out of London onto proper roads where it isn’t constantly stop start. On the plus side though there are loads of people to train with, and a good choice of swimming pools. I tend to do most of my training early in the morning which is awesome in Richmond Park – just being alone with the sunrise and the deer!

How many hours do you train per week? How do you manage to balance everything together?

I typically train somewhere between 15 and 20 hours a week, alongside working for Lloyds Bank in the Commercial Bank, which is typically 50 – 60 hours a week. I am helped by the fact my husband cycles for Nuun-Sigma alongside working so we are both up at the crack of dawn to train. I balance the training with work by making it my priority – I try and do most of my socializing on a day where I only have one session, or at the weekend. I am also lucky in that I am able to work from home fairly regularly which makes getting some of the longer sessions in a bit easier.

I am also very lucky in that this year I have a great support system around me. Now being part of Team Freespeed I have brilliant sponsors like Orca, Clifbar, Precision Hydration, Skechers, and Lezyne giving me the best kit and nutrition. I have also partnered with Giant St Pauls who have lent me my amazing Liv Avow, and using TrainXhale to keep track of my training. I have been working with Will Girling on nutrition, which has had a large impact, and also Helen Smith for physio and generally keeping ahead of injuries. So overall I feel like a lot of people have invested time in me which is a great motivating factor to train.

Do you feel that triathlon eats into your social life? How do you feel about that?

There are certainly times when it eats into my social life, and I’m sure most of my friends would say I’m a bit useless particularly at the moment with Ironman training. However I am a bit past city nights out getting really drunk, and have managed to get better at trying to get people around for dinner after I’ve trained, or combining socializing with training now so many of my friends are also triathletes! I don’t feel at the moment that it affects my social life too badly, it probably affects my relationship more with both of us being pretty tired most of the time with training and work! However we have made it a priority to ensure we have date nights, and time together that isn’t based around training!

Was there ever a time when you were close to quitting? What keeps you going through the tough times? 

I have been extremely lucky to not have been too badly affected by injury, just having a couple of ankle sprains and a broken elbow all of which I came back from pretty quickly. In terms of bad performances – I had a shocker of a race at Wimbleball 70.3 last year – getting a puncture and not having any spares so having to walk for about 45 mins before managing to get spares off someone. You just have to keep perspective on it – most people compete because they love it – I am incredibly lucky to have a body that lets me do all the training and racing, and am continually inspired by those with disabilities or other hardships that race – so one bad performance is not the end of the world! You just have to learn from any mistakes and use them to improve next time.

How do you spend your off-season? Are there sports that you enjoy doing that you feel compliment triathlon

Since being coached by Will Clarke (coming up to 2 years now), I have a 3 week break of no tri training at the end of my season. Being an active person I try to keep doing something, and tend to go to all the gym classes I can’t usually do, just as something different that is fun! I also make sure I spend my time catching up with friends, going to some of the work evenings I usually miss and generally indulging in some of the things I am stricter about during the season.

What is your favourite race and why?

My favourite race so far is probably Hever Castle – I love the Castle Triathlon series – they are well organized by a very friendly and knowledgeable team, the courses are stunning in amazing locations

Share with us any unexpected/funny events that happened during racing or training?

I have had many interesting routes I have taken people on given my general terrible sense of direction and inability to read the Garmin maps. One of the first times I went cycling with pro triathlete Natalie Seymour I was confident I had a great hilly route I could take her on – which ended up in various u-turns as I first started taking her out to Windsor, and then ended up on busy main roads near Dorking, and her having to get us home! Other than that, countless times I’ve had hangry tantrums, and been the person that turns up in shorts when it is minus degrees

What are your next goals?

I am currently training for my first Ironman, in 3.5 weeks in Lanzarote. I am hoping to qualify for Kona – but who knows how I will find the actual Ironman race, and whether I will enjoy it as much as the 70.3 races!

Thank you! Is there anything else you'd like to share with the community?

Triathlon is an amazing welcoming community, with various distances to suit everyone. For anyone who thinks they can’t do a triathlon, or feels nervous about signing up – just take the plunge and you will be amazed at what you can achieve and the friends you will make.


Major race achievements in the past:

  1. 1st Age Grouper – Challenge Gran Canaria (2017)
  2. 1st Woman – Ful-On Duathlon (2017)
  3. 1st Woman – Hever Castle Gauntlet (Sept & July)
  4. 3rd Age Group – 70.3 World Championships (2016)
  5. 1st Age Group – 70.3 Wiesbaden (2016)
  6. 1st Age Grouper – 70.3 Mallorca (2016)
  7. 1st Age Grouper, 7th Woman overall – Challenge Fuerteventura (2016)

You can follow Ruth's journey on Twitter and Instagram @rastle50 or her blog


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