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Susie Cheetham


Susie Cheetham: on the trail for triathlon glory

WE TALK to Susie Cheetham about her triathlon career and which races she's currently training for.

Susie Cheetham

Susie Cheetham caught the triathlon bug when her husband was training for an Ironman.

ALTHOUGH always a keen athlete it wasn’t until her husband was training for an Ironman that Susie Cheetham caught the triathlon bug. She was beating him on the bike and had always been a competent runner so the sport became a natural outlet for her.


That was in 2012 and since then Susie has racked up some incredible results on the traithlon and Ironman trail. Here she talks to us about some her career highlights to date and the races she’s currently training for.



When did you start out in triathlon and who were your biggest supporters and mentors in the sport at the beginning?


Growing up I did everything.  Not necessarily all sports but I was always outside, generally running.  We grew up in the English countryside so I was always running between fields or running around in circles. I used to sail, play hockey, netball and if any school sports team had a spot that needed filling I would generally fill it. 


When I was 13 years old I sort of fell into running, not because I loved it at the time but simply because all that time I’d  spent running around in circles as a kid meant I was pretty good at running around fields for school cross-country races. Cross-country lead to running track in the summer. Between both cross country and track that was my time filled. I dropped the other sports and got quite good at running.  I won English Schools and represented Great Britain on the track in the 5,000m and Cross Country.


I was fairly serious about running throughout university but when I started my career it fell on to the backburner particularly as by that time I’d had my fair share of injuries. 


In 2011 I spent some time on a bike.  My husband was training for an Ironman and I figured the only way I would be able to spend time with him would be if I bought a bike.  To cut a long story short, I got the bike and started beating my husband up the hills. I entered Ironman 70.3 Antwerp the same year and figured I wasn’t too bad after finishing first age grouper and sixth overall. I went pro the next race at Ironman 70.3 South Africa in 2012.


My husband has been there though it all.  He was the one who introduced me to the sport, had faith in me that I could be good, coached me from then until now and put up with all me through the time when I was juggling work alongside pro triathlon training and racing. If it wasn’t for him I’d definitely still be working in an office doing a bit of running in the side.


Susie Cheetham

Susie’s first pro race was in 2012 in South Africa Ironman 70.3.

When did you get your first taste of success in the sport and how did this spur you to keep going?


My first pro race was in 2012 in South Africa Ironman 70.3, it was my second triathlon and I got food poisoning the day before. I was in such a bad state with a resting heart race of 90bpm the morning of the race. I had nothing to lose so I started anyway. I think I cried my way through the run but ended up having an okay result. Although I didn’t show much success in the race it made me realise that if I could do that feeling like I did then I could probably do fairly well going into a race healthy!


My next race was Ironman 70.3 Antwerp and I came second behind Nicola Spirig two weeks before she went on to win the Olympic gold in London.  I suppose that was my first taste of success. 


Susie took the course record when she won a championship Ironman in Ironman South American Champs this year.

What have been some of your biggest successes in your career to date and where in the world has the sport taken you?


I suppose my biggest success has to be winning a championship Ironman in Ironman South American Champs this year and with it taking the course record. It was such a relief to have such a strong performance after an injury at the end of 2016. Second to that would have to be Kona in 2015, finishing sixth in the World Champs was such a breakthrough race for me and to do it in my third ever Ironman was even better. 


Triathlon has taken us to some awesome places. I think Hawaii is somewhere I wouldn’t have visited had it not been for triathlon. I also get to live part time in South Africa, something I definitely wouldn’t be doing if I was still in my office job!


I spend a fair bit of our English winter in South Africa in a little town called Hermanus where my husband’s family live. It’s such an incredible place and there’s honestly nowhere in the world I’d rather be. 


Tell us about what life as a professional triathlete is like?


Awesome 99% of the time. I haven’t always been a professional athlete. I started my career post university at the same time as I started dabbling with triathlon. I worked alongside pro triathlon for four or five years which was pretty tough! I think this has given me perspective in the tough times. 


I love triathlon and sometimes have to pinch myself that I get to do it for my job.  That doesn’t mean there aren’t tough times. We push our bodies to the limit and then go out and do it all the next day. That’s part of the challenge and what makes it so rewarding when you get it right, but it can also tough on the days you don’t get it right.


Susie Cheetham

Susue trains with the Team Bath Triathlon squad at the University of Bath.

In which discipline of the sport do you excel at and at which do you have to work the hardest?


I came to triathlon as a runner but quickly realised that it’s irrelevant excelling in one of the three disciplines.  I’ve spent the last 5 years as a professional athlete balancing the three in order to be the fastest possible triathlete over all three disciplines. 


That doesn’t mean I don’t find some bits easier. One of my favourite sessions is my long build run, to a lot of people this session would be their worst but when I finish the session achieving the paces I get quite a kick out of it. I started swimming in 2012 so this has always been an area of focus, I can’t say I always love it but I’ve put myself in a position where I’m most likely to improve. 


I train with the Team Bath Triathlon squad at the University of Bath. It was set up by Mark Threlfall (who has since moved to setting up the GTN channel) and has been taken over by Rhys Davey (Vicky Holland’s coach and partner) between the two of them they’ve really pushed my swim on and that’s really rewarding.


In 2015 I was only 90 seconds down on the front group at Kona which isn’t bad having only started swimming three to four years beforehand, but I’m also fairly sure I’ve improved my swim since then.


Susie Cheetham

Susie is working and training hard to ensure there are plenty more triathlon triumphs in the future. photo Ironman/Getty Images

How hard are you training for and what triathlon events and races do you have coming up in the near future


It’s all about Kona now.  So for sure, I’m training hard! This is where it counts.  All the best women in the world.  Nobody saying this is my ‘B race’! I find Kona really lights the fire in my belly and gets me out of bed in the morning.

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