For Lucy Charles-Barclay, four runner-up finishes here in Kona certainly proved that she had the potential to win the Ironman World Championship, but to truly go down as one of the greats in the sport, she was going to need to beat the likes of Daniela Ryf and Anne Haug. A win after they retired would be great, obviously, but for the super-competitive Charles-Barclay, a win over some of the sport’s greats would be truly satisfying.
Charles-Barclay did that and much more yesterday here on the Big Island, topping both one of the most competitive fields we’ve ever seen line up at the Ironman World Championship, but also set a new course record, breaking Ryf’s old course record of 8:26:18 by almost two minutes with her 8:24:31.
Even Charles-Barclay was surprised with her time.
“I knew going into this race it was going to be a really tough ask to win it on this day with the calibre of athletes we had,” she said. “Sitting in the pre-race press conference I was looking at all the women and thinking ‘this is going to be a really tough race to win.’ I can’t actually believe that I did it.”
“Going into the race a couple of athletes were asked what time they thought was going to win and they said in the 8:20 region, and I thought ‘how can I get an 8:20 or around that to win?'” she continued. “I was definitely having my best day in the swim and the bike, then the run got really tough, really quick, and I feel like I’ve been running quite a bit faster than that, but I’m happy it was enough to get the win today. Anne’s run to break the run course record was insane – she’s been chasing me down before, we were so close – she kept me honest the whole day. I had to dig so deep to get the win.”
Charles-Barclay literally led the race from start to finish. Heading into the race there had been some rumours about some other athletes trying to beat her out of the water, but the Brit is self-admittedly insanely competitive, and is pretty much incapable of letting anyone take the lead.
“I don’t really know any other way, and I’ve always dreamt of winning it from gun to tape, so to do that was incredible,” she said. “We had such a strong field of swimmers, so I thought I can either be in that group and have a great race because I’m saving energy being in there. But a part of me thought ‘I don’t really like doing it that way, so I’m going to do make it hard for myself and go hard from the start.”
“I’ve always been a born competitor and I get told off a lot in small races for going way to hard – even if it’s the local 5 km Park Run on the weekend,” she continued. “Dan (Lorang, her coach) doesn’t normally let me do those things because he knows I’ll always try and win, but that’s who I am and what I enjoy doing.”
Charles-Barclay was quick to acknowledge just how important her “team” has been, including husband Reece.
“The team have been incredible, getting me here, obviously Reece being the biggest part of that, getting me through this latest training block,” she said. “I’ve been a nightmare to deal with doing this block of training and definitely over the last couple of years with the injuries it’s been very, very tough for us. So, to come back and get the win is a huge relief and it feels like a massive weight off my shoulders to finally have done it. Five times lucky.”
Charles-Barclay did her best not to think about her four-time runner-up string, but finally getting this elusive world title is a game changer.
“It’s always been lingering over my career and everyone’s like ‘she’s always going to be second and never get the win,’ so to finally do it is amazing,” she said. “All racing going forward, whilst every race means a lot to me to try and win, I’m going to enjoy a lot more knowing I’ve done this race.”