Sport University

Student Ironman crosses Finnish line for Make-A-Wish

Find out why the student triathlete decided to put himself through all the pain.

A SMALL minority of people can say that they have completed an Olympic distance triathlon – imagine doubling that. 

A ‘Half Ironman’ consists of a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike ride, before topping it all off with a half marathon, totalling 70.3 miles. 

To many, this sounds both impossible and delusional.

However, fourth-year economics student Alex Zemek-Parkinson has proven that he was up to the challenge, completing his second Half Ironman in Lahti, Finland, in a time of 6:40:13. 

But the challenge didn’t come without its trials – after just ten kilometres of cycling, the wheel on a bike ahead of Alex came off. 

A chunk of carbon fibre from the wheel exploded, flew off and chipped away at Alex’s gear lever, reducing his 21-gear bike down to just two gears, making his race much more difficult than anticipated.

Credit Finisherpix.jpg
Credit: Finsherpix

He said: “This meant that I could achieve a top speed, and climb, but I could do nothing in between. 

“I had to cycle the remaining 80 kilometres in that way; I was so relieved when I got off the bike.” 

Alex chose to raise funds for Make-A-Wish UK, a charity that creates life-changing wishes for children with critical illnesses. 

He said: “Somebody should benefit from my pain. 

“I have three younger brothers and my youngest brother had complications at birth. 

“Everything was fine, but I always think if a child’s life is cut short, then you want to make that short life as good as it can be.” 

Alex, who is the president of the university’s triathlon club, has been involved in swimming, cycling and running since he was 16. 

He said: “I was really overweight and my parents were divorced – I was just constantly eating rubbish and not exercising. 

“My dad then dragged me along to the gym every week, and I just got fitter from there.” 

At 18, he completed the Berlin Marathon and has since ran the Stirling Marathon twice.

He also works as a casual fitness officer and a personal trainer at the university gym.

His original plan was to run five marathons by the age of 25 but he soon realised that he could push harder and go farther.

Thinking back to where it all started, Alex recalled the death of his friend when he was younger.”

“My friend was killed by a taxi a few years ago.

“I wasn’t there but the taxi driver couldn’t get phone signal from the scene of the crash.

“He had to run around a mile up a steep hill in order to get signal, but was so unfit that he didn’t make it in time.

“I want to make sure that I am always in a position to be able to help people in a situation like that.”

Reflecting on his recent achievement of crossing the finish line at the race in Lahti, Alex admitted there were tears in his eyes when the end was in sight. 

He said: “I ended up sprinting the last 800m. 

“When I crossed the line, one of my first thoughts was ‘I could do more, I can do the full one next.”

Most people tend to treat themselves to a holiday or some time off when they graduate, but Alex has different ideas.

Next year, he will be putting himself through the paces again next summer, when he hopes to conquer the full Ironman in Estonia.

The race will see him take on a monster task of a 2.4-mile swim, a 112-mile cycle and a full marathon, which he believes he will complete in between 12 and 14 hours.

Featured image credit: Finisherpix

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