Wearside grandad swaps why-aye for Hawaii as triathlon challenge beckons

Eric Blakie from South Bents has won a place in the Iron Man World Championships in Hawaii.
Eric Blakie from South Bents has won a place in the Iron Man World Championships in Hawaii.
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A GRANDAD is heading thousands of miles to Hawaii in the hope of becoming a real life ironman.

Eric Blakie fought off competition at the recent Ironman Canada event to qualify for the Ironman World Championships.

On October 8, the 58-year-old will have to complete a 2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride and a marathon.

It wasn’t Eric’s first bid to make it to the championships, but he managed to earn one of three places in his age group this year.

“It’s every athletes dream to get to the Olympics but it’s every triathletes dream to get to Hawaii,” said Eric, who lives in South Bents.

An ex-rugby player, Eric got into the sport after he was unable to continue with his previous love of fell running.

Eric said: “I started when I was 49. I was doing fell running, but when foot and mouth came along, I couldn’t go out in the hills. My brother-in-law was doing triathlon and got me interested.”

Eric, who is dad to Gary, 27, Alan, 28 and Wendy, 30, and grandad to Eva, aged two, added: “It gets you very fit. I’m better at it and I enjoy it more than I did fell running. It’s a real challenge.

“Swimming and cycling are about technique, but it’s about the challenge of getting all three things going together.”

Eric has even passed his passion for the triathlon on to his two sons who have competed in events alongside their dad.

The dedicated athlete has been in Canada to train for the world championships.

Eric said: “You would normally have about three months to recover, but just getting out there and competing will be enough of a reward.”

Eric might be one of the more senior contestants, but that is not going to hold him back.

“Injuries allowing I will keep going,” said Eric. “I will keep going as long as I can, but being in the veteran category sounds almost as bad as being called grandad, or ‘gandalf’ as Eva calls me.”