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Running Feat meets... the Brownlee brothers


Alistair Brownlee, 25, and younger brother Jonny, 23, have taken their sibling rivalry global through their incredible triathlon careers. Both have gained world titles while Alistair took the gold medal at the London 2012 Olympics with Jonny not far behind to take the bronze.

The affable brothers from Yorkshire are dedicated to their training and to inspiring their love of sport and fitness in others. Here they tell Running Feat how they got into triathlon, why they love towing the line next to one another and why running is their favourite discipline...


How old were you when you started triathlon?

J: I was eight, I was quite young but I wanted to start because I had seen Alistair doing it. I used to do cross country running at school as well.

A: I was about eight or nine. I already liked swimming and running so I thought I’d give triathlon a go. I was a member of a swimming club and a running club and kind of a triathlon club, there weren’t as many around then as there are now.


Jonny left and Alistair

Olympic heroes: Jonny, left, and Alistair won bronze and gold respectively


Why triathlon?

A: I loved being outside and doing sport and enjoyed swimming, running and cycling. I liked trying all different sports so I didn’t immediate think ‘I want to be a triathlete’ or consider doing it professionally. I just loved it and the more I did triathlons the more I enjoyed them. I did have an Uncle who was doing triathlons so he introduced me to it.

J: I swam and ran anyway but might not have tried triathlon as early as I did if it wasn’t for Alistair. And I definitely wouldn’t be as good. Alistair is a barrier-breaker with his training and racing. Coaches used to tell him when he was younger, ‘you can’t do that amount of training’ and he said ‘yes I can’. I would have listened to those coaches and done less training but seeing Alistair do it made me realise I could too. I have learnt a lot from him. I remember when he got his first Great Britain kit, I thought I want that. I didn’t consider how hard I would have to work to get there but it’s all worth it, especially last year getting to compete in the Olympics with a home crowd.


How can parents get their children into triathlon?

J: Encourage them to do it and show them how fun it is. Finding a club is important, every area should have one local to them now. They can meet new people there and make friends who they can compete and train with. We staged a triathlon in Yorkshire in September and we want to do more of them around the country for all age groups.


And what tips would you give to adults who want to get fit?

A: Join a club or arrange a time to go out with your friends. It’s so much easier when you get home from work to get out again if you know there’s a group session you can join in or you’re meeting up for a run with your friends.

J: Set a goal. We always have a race target and that keeps us motivated in training.


How long do you think you can keep going at the level you are now?

J: It’s difficult to know, it’s generally thought you peak at 27 or 28 but we started quite young as we’ve been training long hours for a long time. Hopefully we can keep going into our thirties but you never know if you might get a bad injury that prevents you carrying on. And then days like today I feel quite tired so maybe I’ll just keep going another year!


The Brownlees brothers

Sibling rivalry: The pair love being competitive with one another


Jonny, you are two years younger than Alistair, would you carry on as an elite triathlete if he stopped before you?

J: It would be weird without him being there. It would be like something is missing. But I might like it as it might make it my time to shine.

Do you ever feel like you are in each other’s shadow?

J: No, actually I think it’s the opposite, we get attention because we are brothers and people are interested in how we came from the same house.

Are you targeting the Rio Olympics?

A: Yes that’s the next big thing. But there’s the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow this summer and World Triathlons every year that are a big deal.


Alistair, you’ve said before you would consider doing the 10k at the Commonwealth Games too?

A: I’d love too but it’s difficult to find the time to fit it and find the right race where I could run a fast time to qualify so we’ll see.


Will either of you do any cross countries this year?

J: I love cross country! That’s another great way to get kids into sports. We did cross country races all over the country when we were young. You just put your running shorts and spikes on and go and I love the simplicity of that. I’d love to do the Nationals, the smell of the mud and watching the stampede of runners at the start, especially when it’s at Parliament Hill and there’s hundreds charging up the hill. It’s a shame it doesn’t get more media coverage.


Is running your favourite discipline in the triathlon?

J: Yes for both of us. We just love the freedom of running where you want. You can run anywhere you want and you just need your kit and trainers so in a new area you can go for a run and explore.


Running Feat meets the Brownlee brothers

Lucy with the talented (and tall) Brownlee brothers


How many miles a week do you run?

J: About 75 on a heavy training week. That includes two sessions a week, one on the track and a longer session on the grass with longer efforts like 5 minute reps.


What’s the longest run you do?

J: About 22k (13.7 miles), we do that on a Sunday like every runner does.

Would you consider doing an Ironman?

A: Yes definitely at some point. Hopefully another Olympics to do first though.


What about just running a marathon?

J: Yes I loved to do the London Marathon after watching it on TV. I would need to do a lot of road running in training though or my legs would give up at 10 miles.

A: I’d love to do it one day but I would want to do it properly and run as fast as I can so that would mean doing different training.


How do you find training together as friends and brothers and then having to race against one another?

A: We get asked that a lot and it’s not really something we know how to answer. We’ve grown up training together and then racing one another so it’s just something we’ve always done. We just get on with it.

J: We talk to one another during races and try and work together, especially on the bike.


If you are ever beaten, do you prefer it be by the other rather than by anyone else?

Both: Definitely.

J: If I had to choose anyone to beat me it would be Alistair but of course I would rather beat him first!


Are you competitive about everything?

A: We used to be , anything you can imagine boys being competitive about we would be - football in the garden, cricket, board games, crazy golf, all those things. But I think triathlon uses up all our competitiveness now.


Did your parents encourage you to be competitive with one another?

A: They just let us get on with it.


So has that sibling rivalry helped your careers?

J: Massively, it’s taught us how to compete and not to be scared of competition. We can learnt from each other and spur each other on. If Alistair beat me at table tennis in the garden I would go away and practise to be better so I could beat him. I think sport can teach a lot of life skills.

A: Definitely. You always want to beat your little brother and him catching up with me pushes me to go forward a bit more.


Do you ever argue?

A: We have disagreements but we’ve never had a big falling out.


You climbed Kilimanjaro last year, was that for charity?

J: No, just for fun. It was a very different kind of holiday to do. We travel around the world a lot but not to anywhere like that.


What would you have been if you hadn’t been triathletes?

J: I can’t see a life without sport having trained so hard for so long. I quite fancy teaching. Although if I hadn’t have done triathlon I might have not had the confidence to do that - sport helps you grow as a person. I had some great teachers who encouraged me to do sport so it would be good to do the same.

A: I would have trained to be a doctor.


The Brownlee brothers are ambassadors for Warburtons Half & Half range - helping parents smuggle goodness into family life. Visit their Scrapbook at www.facebook.com/warburtons