Blast from the past as Nigel Powley dons GB vest in duathlon

Nigel Powley digs deep during the final run section at the European Duathlon Championships, held in

Nigel Powley digs deep during the final run section at the European Duathlon Championships, held in Soria in northern Spain. - Credit: Archant

When I first started out as an athletics reporter, for this paper, one name sprung up time and time again on the East Anglian road running circuit – Nigel Powley.

On yer bike: Nigel Powley is now a much-respected cyclist, as well as a runner. Here he competes on

On yer bike: Nigel Powley is now a much-respected cyclist, as well as a runner. Here he competes on the bike leg while representing Team GB at the European Duathlon Championships - Credit: Archant

The all-conquering Powley won countless road races on the local and regional scene, during the 1980s and 1990s, and many of his county records and course bests still stand to this very day.

Powley ran for the likes of Ipswich JAFFA, Felixstowe Road Runners and Colchester Joggers (now Colchester Harriers), as well as branching out onto the national stage with the powerful Belgrave Harriers.

I myself accompanied Powley in a tiny four-seater plane from Ipswich airport to Newcastle, back in 1995, to report on the then-31-year-old’s exploits at the Great North Run. I too toed the elite start-line that day, but as a gatecrasher rather than genuine athlete.

Powley clocked his slowest half-marathon for eight years that day (though still under 1hr 10mins), citing the precarious journey and a recent illness for his ‘slow time.’ I eventually arrived at the finish in 1hr 27mins, citing a lack of fitness for my north-east shocker.

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Fast-forward to the present and although Powley’s best days as a runner are long behind him – though he could still show most athletes a clean pair of heels – he has transformed himself into an international duathlete.

In fact, Powley has only recently returned from the European Duathlon Championships, which were held in Soria, northern Spain, as part of Team GB – so proving that there is life after running – it’s called running and cycling!

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Powley, a catering manager at Notcutts, takes up the story: “I qualified to compete in this event back in February, at Grafham Water Duathlon (Cambridgeshire). It was not my best performance and I was surprised to just sneak in the Team GB age group (50-54) in the final 20th place.

“Soria is a medium size town, 3,000 feet above sea level and the weather can be changeable. On the morning of the race, the sun was shining. Unfortunately, as my race approached (the standard distance of a 10K run, 40K bike and final 5K run), the weather was deteriorating quickly and by the bike section we were batting 40mph-plus head and side winds, and also icy rain. I was flat out in some parts going up the mountain roads with a head wind at 5mph.

“Not only did we battle against the weather, but we were also racing on very hilly roads, and over the 25-mile bike leg we raced up 1,900 feet of incline.

“The runs were in the town’s park and again each leg saw big inclines on the course, with U-turns and sharp corners over the 10km course,” added Powley.

Despite the testing conditions, Powley finished 14th in his age group, and sixth Briton, a big improvement on his original qualifying place of 20th.

It was also his fourth outing in a Great Britain vest.

Powley continued: “I was happy with the performance as although my cycling is very good now, and I have managed to average around 150 miles per week over the past year, my running has been stop-start with three torn calf muscles since Christmas.

“In fact, I have managed less than eight miles per week running since the turn of the new year.

“Up until three weeks prior to the event, it was touch and go if I could actually compete as I could barely run a quarter-of-a-mile without having to stop through problems with the calf.

“I gradually got a few runs under my belt and two weeks prior to the event I managed a 39-mins 10K run without limping or breaking down injured again.”

Looking to the future, Powley is now earmarking the World Long Distance Duathlon Championships, which are to be held in Zofingen, Switzerland, this September, with the promise of some tough mountainous terrain for the 10K run, 150K bike and final 30K run. Powley explained: “This summer I will in effect be training for a marathon and a 100-mile cycle Time Trial, but all within eight hours.

“My aim is for a top-10 age group finish in these World Championships,” revealed Powley, who is a sponsored brand ambassador for coffee company Paddy & Scotts.

The 53-year-old added: “Competing for GB is expensive, so although I took our motor-home down to Spain (with my dog, who became known as ‘GB dog!’) it was made so much easier with the backing of Paddy & Scotts.”

Powley also receives support from Ipswich Borough Council (free use of their sports centres and facilities, as an international athlete), and from ‘Joanne Powley Pilates,’ his wife’s business. And he is always on the look-out for additional sponsors.

So runners take note. If you’re feeling jaded, injured or unfulfilled, you can always get on yer bike!

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