How It All Started
MTC was set up in 1988 by a guy called John Moore. John was a bikie who worked as a Fireman, and part-time at Harry Hall Cycles. He wanted to get on the national squad, and hoped to be able to do it on the strength of his cycling ability. He advertised for like-minded people to come to a meeting at the Olde Cock Inn in Didsbury, where the Club was formed, and where the weekly Club meetings were held initially.
Amongst those at that first meeting were Rob Arnold, Gordon Jefferies, Alan Atkinson, Mark Pearson, Viv Archer and Dave Leak. Rob became the first Chairman and Mark Pearson was Secretary for the first three months, after which Dave Leak took over. Rob Arnold and Dave Leak are both still members. Rob is still competing regularly, including Ironman Lanzerote 2008. Alan Atkinson, though no longer a member, was spotted at a race recently. He was the first MTC member to complete Ironman Hawaii, in 1987, in the days when overseas entrants weren’t required to qualify (Dave Leak had an entry in the 1986 race, but was unable to compete because of injury).
After a year there were about 50 members and we decided we needed somewhere a bit more private for Club meetings, so we moved to the Police Social Club at the Hough End Centre in Chorlton, thanks to Club member Simon Leak, who was a police firearms officer. We stayed there until the new Clubhouse was built at Longford Park.
The design for our first Club T-shirts featured a cartoon athlete running through water carrying his bike over his shoulder. Our first Club colours were a rather shocking pink and blue.
Although the kit featured a more restrained logo which was decided, through a competition for its students, by the Faculty of Design at Stockport Tech. The winning design was a triangle drawn freehand with a brush, trailing off into a comet-tail. The result was quite clever because, depending on how you looked at it, it could look like a swimmer’s recovery arm above the surface of the water, or a runner’s leading leg bent with the trailing leg straight, or the frame of a bike.
The Club colours were changed to purple and yellow in 1995, then to black and white, black and red and eventually to the current scheme of red and white. Jeff Sherrin said that, in those days, members were happy to leave decisions to Dave Leak until he chose the club colours. He said “After a couple of psychedelic choices, obviously influenced by substances stronger than beer, this topic guaranteed a full attendance, and lively discussion, until we all arrived at a group agreement – black!”
Club training sessions
Our first official run session immediately preceded Club nights every Tuesday from the Hough End Centre, with a five-mile route around the lake at Sale Water Park and back. In the late 90s Perry Huizer started the training sessions at the Longford Park Track, in the days before the current fancy Clubhouse was built and all we had was a portacabin.
Cycling sessions were, as they still are, from Didsbury clock tower on Sunday mornings, although groups separated according to ability with designated leaders is a relatively recent refinement.
Our first official swim session was run by Rob Arnold at Victoria baths on Hathersage Road in Chorlton-on-Medlock (the centre closed not long after, and the empty pool was famously used as the scene of a rather gristly murder in an episode of Prime Suspect). However, having seen the standard of swimming I think Rob despaired – it certainly didn’t become a regular session, and we subsequently had a joint session with Rochdale TC at Varley Street pool in Miles Platting coached by a guy called Gerry Delaney. Dave Quatermain later became involved in these sessions, and began coaching them in 1995. In 1997 Dave started Swim Conditioning classes at Moss Side for Manchester Leisure but, as these sessions were dominated by triathletes, they were adopted as the official MTC sessions and taken over by the Club, to be joined later by sessions at the Aquatics Centre and Stretford. In 1998 Dave started coaching open-water sessions at Salford Quays, and the Boundary Water Park sessions were added in 2007.
The spring Training Weekends started around 2001 in the Yorkshire Dales. One year it started to snow soon after the start of a planned 50 mile ride, and most of us turned back, suffering only mild hypothermia. A few indomitable souls continued though, and when the police closed the roads they simply went round the road blocks. The roads were so treacherous they had to walk up the hills and slide down them, but they would not be beaten. Some were rescued by the authorities. There were some seriously cold and miserable triathletes that night.
Club training races
The Club has also organised long-standing training Duathlons and Aquathlons for its members and guests.
There were two Duathlon courses used – a flat one at Chelford for the winter and a hilly one at Tegg’s Nose Country Park (next to the Cat and Fiddle Road from Macclesfield to Buxton) for the summer.
The Tegg’s Nose race was started in the early 90’s by Dave Bradley, and was later organised by Brian Yarker, who was one of the early Club Chairmen. It was short but vicious, finishing with a run up a track with a gradient of about 1 in 3.
The winter Duathlons, over a 10 mile/3mile course, were started by Neil and Fran Stafford. When they moved to Sri Lanka in 2001 Jeff Sherrin took over.
The Aquathlons were held at Romiley on Saturday evenings over a 1k swim/5k run, and were hosted by Dave Marshall (who was Chairman at the time) and his wife Julie. He described some memorable moments, including the night Club Treasurer Jeff Sherrin left the pool by the wrong door and had to return, shamefaced, to the poolside because he’d ended up in the broom cupboard. On another evening half the field stopped to look after a drunk who’d collapsed in the gutter. The runs were usually lively, because they took competitors past several pubs, and most people ran in their swimming costumes. The aquathlons were held at Salford Quays for a number of years before moving to Sale Water Park in the summer of 2016, run by Paul Savage and Stu Moore.
The Club’s first event was the Knutsford Triathlon in 1990, organised by Dave Leak. Permission to use Tatton Mere was refused, so the swim took place at Knutsford Leisure Centre, with the bike route going through the town to join a circuit in and around Tatton Park (the same circuit used by the current Tatton Triathlon) with the run and finish in the Park.
The following year we moved the venue to Marbury Park near Northwich, using the open air pool, a bike circuit going round and through the Park, and an off-road run in the Park. One of the spectators was the Chief Executive of the South and East Cheshire Health Authority. He was so impressed with the event that he approached the Club and offered to sponsor it as a means of promoting a healthy lifestyle. With that support the event grew and grew. It was renamed ‘The Cheshire Triathlon’, was preceded by a series of novice Training Days and a blaze of publicity, and featured both an open-water Sprint Distance event using Budworth Mere and a shorter novice event using the pool (until we had the backing the Health Authority we had been refused permission to use Budworth Mere on the ground that, at the end of the war, the US servicemen who had been stationed in the Park dumped their Harley Davidson motorbikes in the Mere, creating an underwater hazard – in the end we got permission on the condition that we sent in scuba divers to clear the course first, though they never found any rusting Harleys!)
In 1994, we put on the country’s first-ever women-only triathlon at Marbury Park. This was a pool-based Sprint distance race which attracted about 100 competitors. It was won by Loretta Sollars, with Ceris Gilfillan second.
For years Dave Marshall tried, unsuccessfully, to get permission to use Salford Quays for open water swimming, and the authorities eventually relented when the Watersports Centre was built and recreational use of the docks became inevitable. We put on a Sprint distance race there in 1999, with a bike route that went out towards Eccles and back, and a run around the docks. Club Chairman Dave Marshall came up with the name for the event – The Quays Breeze – and the idea for the commemorative mugs, which said “Me? Do a 750m swim, 20k bike and 5k run. With my reputation?” (an oblique reference to a Paul Whitehouse character from the Fast Show).
The same course was used later the same year for the BTA Sprint Championships, which were organised by Phil Templar, who plagiarised our race information literature!
In 2000 we moved our annual race to Boundary Water Park, where it became The Boundary Breeze. Boundary Water Park was a venue first used by Vic Bickerton and Graham Jefferson, operating under the name of Excellent Promotions (Vic now organises under the name of Fun2Tri, and puts on a race at Marbury Park).
MTC members were also heavily involved in the 1993 World Championships (which started at Rivington and finished in Albert Square, Manchester – Spencer Smith won his first senior title ahead of Simon Lessing, and Michellie Jones outsprinted Karen Smyers for the women’s title) and the 2002 Commonwealth Games, which were based at Salford Quays, and took the athletes past Manchester Town Hall and Manchester United’s football stadium.
Club members were also involved in putting on a series of aquathlons at Abraham Moss Leisure Centre in the 90s, several children’s triathlons around Manchester, and an indoor triathlon at The Galleon in Didsbury in 1999.
The MTC Junior Section was started by Mark Tweedie who, in 2000, produced a Club Development Plan and secured a £5,000 ‘Awards For All’ Lottery Grant which was used to buy a secure container at the Longford Park Track and a stock of small racing bikes which were stored in it. In the same year, with support from the Club, Mark organised the first Greater Manchester Series of junior triathlons at Stretford, Irlam and Abraham Moss Leisure Centres. These races produced a number of successful Manchester Triathlon Club junior members, including Samantha Wilson (who travelled from Cumbria to train with MTC) Krystal Hoath, Chloe Holland, Saul and Nathan Elly, and Nina McArthur. The Junior Section was initially coached jointly by Mark Tweedie and Nick Thomas, before Paul Davies and Karen Elly took over.
The Social Side
When the Club started there was more emphasis on the social side, and less on the training. As well as the weekly Club nights at the Olde Cocke, and then the Police Club, there was also a long tradition of drinking after training sessions – for years The Whitworth in Rusholme was where everyone headed after swimming at Moss Side, and the trendy bars of Didsbury were popular after Sunday bike rides, and Rock World in Nottingham was the venue of choice after the National Relay Championships at Holme Pierrepont. The formation of the MTCRRPTU (Manchester Tri Club Rapid Response Piss-Taking Unit) arose from the badinage at one particularly boisterous post-race party on the Isle of Man. A founder member of the RRPTU was Simon McCrum, who was subsequently appointed the Club Social Secretary in recognition of his selfless dedication to ensuring everyone in the Club had a good time, whether they wanted it or not. More recently we’ve had the Curry Club, which is a monthly get-together in Rusholme after Tuesday swim training.
The Christmas ‘do’ has a long and exulted history. As well as being the Club’s social event of the year it also included the presentation of all the Club Championship awards, Club Member of the Year, and so on. The first one was organised by Gordon Jefferies at the ‘Steak and Kebab’ in Didsbury, after which they moved to a place called That Café in Levenshulme, and then to the upstairs function room of the Nag’s Head pub, just off Albert Square in Manchester. Here, there was room to circulate and dance, and the meal was a buffet. This format proved a winner and has been used ever since. From the Nag’s Head we moved to a club on Oxford Street, the name of which no-one can remember, and then to Solomom Grundy’s in Withington from which the party tended to move to the house of Club Chairman, Clio Kirwan, who lived round the corner. Now we have a great End of Season party and our annual Awards to celebrate our members’ achievements each year are presented separately at the Club AGM.