A ST ALBANS man of 44 competed in one of the top triathlon events in the world in San Francisco last Sunday (June 16).

Mr Mark Cathcart of Chestnut Drive finished 909th overall, and 81st in his age group, out of about 1,500 contestants in the Escape from Alcatraz triathlon, a gruelling challenge combining swimming, cycling and running.

He completed the race, comprising a 1.5 mile swim from a boat near Alcatraz Island, an 18-mile cycle around the hills of San Francisco, and a nine-mile run along the coastal paths up and around the Golden Gate Bridge, in three hours 22 minutes.

Mr Cathcart, one of only four British athletes to be invited to compete, said: "The water was 54 degrees, which is really pretty cold, and there can be sharks.

"The distance was equivalent to 68 lengths at Westminster Lodge, and there was a really strong current.

"The bike ride was 18 miles, which is relatively short, but there are a lot of steep hills around San Francisco, so it was quite tough.

"But for me the toughest part was the run. I am six foot two and 200-plus pounds, which is not ideal for a runner.

"But it was phenomenal - so rewarding. It was really beautiful, and there were about 10,000 spectators ringing bells and cheering."

After a week in San Francisco with his wife Wendy, he travelled to New York for his work with IBM.

Mr Cathcart is hoping to be selected for the British triathlon team that will compete at the world championships in Cancoun, Mexico, in November.

June 21, 2002 12:00