Marta Coll: from Ironman races to duathlons, the cyclist who can’t stop competing

WE TALK to Marta Coll about how her lifelong passion for cycling has led her to compete in sporting events from duathlons to Ironman races.



Marta Coll Cruels

Marta Coll Cruels had been a passionate cyclist since childhood but it was when she moved to London that she started to realise she had a real talent for the sport.

SINCE SHE was young Marta Coll has been an avid cyclist but it wasn’t until she moved to London and started cycling to work that she realised she had a real talent for the sport. She was inspired by colleagues to enter a triathlon and it was long before she had caught the swimming bug too!


Marta continues to cycle each day to work from her home in Putney. It’s valuable time on the road as much of her time outside of working hours is spent competing in events from Ironman races to duathlons.


Here she talks about where sport has taken her and the successes she’s had competing. Find out about her experience of her first Ironman race which she took part in this year and find out about the hard training she’s putting in to be ready for the one she’s entered for 2018!


When did you start cycling and who inspired you to give the sport a go?


I think that I have had different phases in my life. I remember my first time on a bike and it was during my summer school holidays that I used to spend lots of time at my parents business so that way someone could keep an eye on me and because I was an active kid and I couldn’t stay doing nothing for too long, I used to make little circuits with obstacles in my parents warehouse and I spent hours doing laps on my bike. That is my first memory of riding a bike.


After that, and when I had enough savings, I bought a mountain bike which was the most suitable kind of bike for the area that I am from, and that was the only bike that I owned until I came to London. And it is here, in UK, where my cycling story starts.


I got a really cheap single speed bike to commute to work after a few weeks of being in London, for two reasons, one because the public transport is expensive and I am not a big fan of spending time in a packed train, and second because I was so excited and interested in discovering the city that I thought that exploring the city on a bike would be the most rewarding way of doing it, and I can tell you now that I wasn’t wrong.


After that, one day at work, some of my work colleagues were discussing about doing a triathlon all together, a super sprint in Dorney Lakes. Some of them were experienced triathletes and some of the others were complete newbies, I was a newbie but really keen on giving it a go. It was because of that challenge that I started swimming, and I got a new bike as well to train for it. It was really good fun to get to work every morning and chat about how was the swim last night or how many k’s we have done on the weekend. That was not just making me feel healthier and better it created as well a stronger work team. The day of the triathlon it was such a fun day and since then I haven’t stopped cycling.


In terms of who inspired me to give the sport a go, I would say that everything that I have related to sport comes from my dad. He was very passionate about sport, he was always watching sports and saying how admirable all those athletes were, he even use to celebrate the victory of athletes that he wasn’t supporting just because they deserved the win. He gave me the perception that every time that I do sport and that I am overcoming myself, I am doing a good thing, and that is a really nice feeling.


Marta Coll Cruels

Marta was inspired to enter a triathlon by colleagues and that was to become the catalyst for her competitiveness in sport.

Have you always been a sporty person and if so what other sports have you been involved in?


Yes, I have been always sporty since I was a kid. My first sport and the one that I feel like it’s in my blood is football. When I was very little I used to ask for a football instead of dolls, and I was all day everywhere kicking the ball around. At school I was the only girl playing with boys at the break and they always treated me as one of them.


A bit later on, all my girlfriends were playing basketball and because I didn’t know anyone doing football I decided to play basketball. I played until 14 years old and when it started to get more serious I wasn’t having fun anymore, so I stopped.


The following years I don’t remember doing any specific sport until I went to uni and I joined the football team. At that point I have got the running bug as well. I kept running and training for my first half marathon. I was really lucky to join the nicest group of runners that I have ever met. It was a completely free training, we were meeting every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, and then Sundays to do longer runs. The atmosphere in that group was the reason why I fell in love with running. We were a group with different ages and from different places and sometimes not much in common other than loving running and training for a half marathon. Everybody was sharing their knowledge to the ones with less experience and the support from everyone on a bad day could make you run like everything was fine. They became my running family.


After doing the half marathon I moved to Paris to do my last year of Civil Engineering after getting a fellowship from my uni at Barcelona. I tried to keep running once in France but the surroundings in the area were not ideal for it, and I decided to join the women’s football team of my French uni and I started training Rugby for the first time in my life. Rugby was really good fun and with football we get to won a few tournaments. That was a good example of how helpful sport can be to meet people and to make friends. I was new at uni and from another country, but out on the pitch we were all a team, working together and looking after each other. I have really good memories from that year in Paris.


After that I moved to London to work and the first thing I did was to join a football social team and I managed as well to find nice routes to start running again. When the triathlon training started I stopped playing football to prevent injuries, and I guess because I was enjoying cycling so much that I was planning my weekends around cycling and that didn’t leave time to play football.


Since then, I would say that my main sports are the following with the right order of time dedicated to it: cycling, running and swimming. With the last one, I still need to fall in love with it, at the moment it is a love-hate relationship.


Marta Coll Cruels

Marta has had some well earned finishing places in the events she has competed in and is looking forward to more success in the future.

 What were some of your earliest cycling successes?


Because my main sports have been always football and running, it wasn’t until I did my first sprint triathlon that I started competing on the bike. I would say that my first big achievements, or at least big achievements for me were to get a AG 4th place in the 2016 Descente London Half Duathlon, which is the biggest duathlon in the world in terms of participants, and a AG 1st place in the VeloPark Clapham Chasers Womens Duathlon. Another big achievement was to do the longest ride that I have done so far, and it was doing The Great Escape ride organised by Islington CC which is a 200km ride and I top this up riding from home and back which ended up in a 250km. It was an amazing day out with lots of cyclists and one of the best atmospheres that I have seen in this kind of events.


Where in the country and world has the sport taken you and what have been some of the highlights?


In terms of running there is a funny one that I would like to explain. I was looking for a half marathon in London, something similar to the London marathon but for a half. I was looking on a website the list of running races in UK to find one around August because that will leave me enough time to train and the weather would be nice.


Scrolling down the list I spotted a half marathon called Coll Half Marathon in the Inner Hebrides, Scotland. That caught my eye because ‘Coll’ is my surname, and I wasn’t expecting that name to be used in UK as it is a typical Catalan surname. Anyway, when I saw that I visited the website, and when I saw some of the pictures of the place and how remote it was, I just decided that I needed to go there, do the half marathon and raise money for Cancer Research UK, in memory of my dad, and what a better race than the one that has my dad’s surname.


Just to get there it was a bit of an odyssey, flight to Glasgow, rent a car and drive to Oban, ferry to the Isle of Coll and camping with a tent in a green area with the rest of participants. There are 30 inhabitants on the isle and around 300 participant on that weekend, and not enough b&b for everyone, which makes it even more special. The run was stunning, some of the views that I had there I will keep them always in my memory. I got to see a bit of Scotland and for a good cause.


Marta Coll Cruels

Marta Coll Cruels regularly competes in running and cycling and also races in triathlons.

In terms of cycling, I would like to put all my routes from London in one map to see exactly the amount of areas that I have got to see on my bike. I have done rides like London to Brighton, London to Whistable and Canterbury, Cotswolds, the Chilterns, Hertforshire, Surrey, Kent, Essex, London to Oxford and back, a cycling trip around Cornwall, the loop of the Isle of Wight, South Downs, etc. Another ride was to take the ferry from Dover to Calais, 100 km around the beautiful French countryside and back to UK on the same day. And I still have many more planned to keep discovering the country, next one Peak District. I can’t think of a better way to travel. My biggest adventure outside UK was a cycling trip in Central America with the aim of crossing 3 countries in 30 days with just our bikes and tents. Starting in the north of Panama, through Costa Rica and finishing in Nicaragua. The stories about that trip would need a dedicated article!


I think there is common highlight from all my rides and cycling trips, and it is that the contact with the nature and people that you can get on your bike is incomparable to any other way of travelling. You can get far enough compared to walking to see many different thing in just one day, but slow enough compared to a car or train to be able to appreciate and absorb everything that the surroundings have to offer.


How often do you currently cycle and what’s it like for cyclists around the area of Putney where you live?


I cycle every day, unless I have a commitment after work that I can’t take the bike to or if the weather is awful. My normal routine is to cycle to work and back every day and some days I meet other cycling friends to do a few laps around Regents Park and have coffee before starting at work. Then during the weekend is when I do the longer rides, it can be Saturday or Sunday or both.


Putney is an area perfectly located for cyclists. It is close to Richmond Park and therefore really easy to exit the city on that side to Surrey Hills or even further east to Kent, and it is central enough to make easy any commute around London. It is a good spot for families as well because you can cycle without traffic following the gravel path near the river. I see lots of cyclists every morning and evening commuting and going through Putney, and during the weekends lots of groups going to Richmond Park or heading that direction. In Putney you can find many bike shops and bike friendly cafes and restaurants.


Marta Coll Cruels

Marta cycles to work in London every day and often heads out to Kent for longer, more energising rides at the weekend.

Are you currently training for any specific races or cycle challenges that you may have coming up in the months ahead?


My main challenge this year was to complete my first Ironman 70.3. I chose Barcelona because I could have my family supporting me, and what a better first Ironman 70.3 than one back home. I am an awful swimmer, and to me, the swim part was a real challenge but at the same time a way to overcome my fears. I enjoyed it a lot and that gave me more confidence of what I am capable of. That was back in May, after that, I did another half Ironman in Marlow, and last Sunday I competed in the 2017 ETU Sprint Distance Duathlon Qualifier. And to be honest the fact that it didn’t include any swimming took away some pressure. Now I am waiting for the British Triathlon to publish the qualification list and I will find out if I have qualified to compete next year in the 2018 Ibiza ETU Sprint Distance Duathlon European Championships. If I have qualified I will be really happy, and if not I will more motivated to do it better, so not a bad side in any case.


My next big race will be the IRONMAN 70.3 Middle East Championship Bahrain at the end of November, and I think that will be it for this year. For next year I have many things in mind, like the Dunwich Dynamo which is an unsupported 120 miles night ride from London Fields in Hackney to the Suffolk coast, or a long distance cycling race like the famous Mallorca 312 or the Etape du Tour, that has been announced today and it will be from Annecy to Le Grand-Bornand in the Alps. I am sure that more plans will come up, but the most important thing is that I want to keep enjoying cycling as much as I am doing it now.

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