The Balbirnie Park Duathlon

4th Jul 2018 | Written by Carolyn Reid

The Balbirnie Park Duathlon hosted by Glenrothes Triathlon Club returns for its sixth year today after winning the 2017 Triathlon Scotland Event of the Year award.

The event was awarded the title as a result of its impressive growth over its five-year lifespan where the number of competitors more than doubled to include 160 competitors in 2017. In addition to its growth, the club and the event’s reputation for being friendly and welcoming along with their incredible army of volunteers made sure that the race was a fantastic experience for triathletes of all abilities and most deserving of the award.

An important part of what makes the Balbirnie Park Duathlon so special is the Glenrothes Club’s relationship with Balbirnie House. Over the years, Balbirnie House has gone above and beyond to improve the competitor experience and to help promote the event in the local area while also providing the most beautiful setting for the race. To find out more about how Balbirnie House supports the club and the event, we spoke to owner Nicholas Russell who was kind enough to answer our questions.

Read the interview below and if you have a business that has supported your triathlon club then please feel free to get in touch with Carolyn Reid as we would love to highlight some of the incredible businesses that support our sport across the country!

What sort of relationship do you have between Glenrothes Triathlon Club and Balbirnie House?

In 2017, Glenrothes Triathlon Club celebrated their 5thAnniversary. Over these recent years, Balbirnie House has provided the backdrop for the annual Balbirnie Duathlon. This consists of a 5k run through beautiful Balbirnie Park, a 20k cycle, and a final 2.5k run.

Having previously won Triathlon Scotland’s ‘Most Enjoyable Event of 2013’, the occasion has steadily grown over the years. In 2017 the Balbirnie Duathlon won Triathlon Scotland’s ‘Event of the Year’.


How did the hotel get involved with Glenrothes Triathlon Club?

When we saw the first Balbirnie Duathlon take place soon after the club had initially formed, it was immediately apparent that there was a real combined sense of community, collaboration and camaraderie. Additionally, there was also a realization of how wonderful our location could be for these types of events. And furthermore, how the event could make a positive impact through our local community. All of these aspects created our desire to do all we could to assist in the future.


What is it that you find appealing about Triathlon as a sport to support?

I took part in a Balbirnie Duathlon four years ago, as a competitor. Back then at the age of 46, it was the first time I had ever participated in such an event. I managed a top 100 finishes that year, noted there were 77 individuals taking part! The direct encouragement received that evening from Glenrothes Triathlon Club course marshals, was something that’ll stay with me forever.

On a personal level, I enjoyed the training and participation so much, that I haven’t stopped. I’m now looking forward to taking part in this year’s Edinburgh IRONMAN 70.3 – a first triathlon at the age of 50. (Read about Nicholas’ IRONMAN experience here.)

In a more significant context, it’s great to see the house as a backdrop and Balbirnie Park itself being used for these special annual Duathlon occasions. Without a doubt, since the Duathlon began – and partly assisted by accumulating press coverage, we now see many more individual groups using the park for all sorts of fitness-orientated events.

With regards to the much bigger picture, one of the most significant challenges facing Scotland today is of course in relation to fitness. Anything whatsoever that can be done to promote and help fitness, is certainly relevant.

Fundamentally, Glenrothes Triathlon Club has members from across a very wide span of abilities, it’s a very friendly and inclusive organization, with a superb network of voluntary coaches.


Do you have any advice for triathlon clubs that are looking to approach businesses for support? What is the best way to approach someone and what do you think triathlon has to offer businesses?

Just go ahead and ask, and please do feel free to cite what everyone has achieved with the Balbirnie Duathlon, as one example. Any connection made with fitness has to be a positive aspect.

Each year, the Duathlon organizers call for a show of hands from all of those participants who are taking part in a duathlon event for the very first time. Each year, almost half of those taking part are taking part in a duathlon for the very first time. That’s really great to see.


Does the relationship with the club benefit the hotel?

It’s lovely to have an association with such a great club. As well as personal fitness, others who work here in Balbirnie House have also been inspired to take part in the annual Duathlon, that’s been great to see.

We very much look forward to seeing what else can be done to continue to evolve the annual Balbirnie Duathlon, over years to come.

We’ve also actually begun to consider what we could perhaps do at Balbirnie House, to physically add to what we do, by creating and building a hub of fitness, wellbeing and wellness. It has certainly also crossed my mind, that if we had a 25-metre pool, we could also run regular Triathlon events as well.


What sort of things have you done to help the club and the event?

Like any annual occasion, you learn from each experience. In our context, we also consider what else we can do to improve aspects in relation to the warmth and welcome of Scottish hospitality, as that’s what we do. Balbirnie House is the current Haute Grandeur global hotel awards ‘Best Function Venue Hotel’ for Europe, so we aspire to do all we can to keep improving anything we can do.

With regards to the annual Balbirnie duathlon, we have helped spread awareness using our social media, specifically about taking part in the event itself. This has also focused into the local area demographics, aligned especially to those with specific interests in running, cycling, and general fitness.

Back upon the occasion of our first Balbirnie duathlon, we provided no catering at all. The second year we did provide catering, but we got the pricing wrong for burgers, and only served a handful of guests! On the third year, we nailed it with extreme value! By the fifth year, we also offered hog roast, and we served almost 500 guests! It’s lovely to see so many competitors being supported by family and friends, who also enjoy a great snack on the night.

As the event has grown in stature, we’ve added in aspects such as a piper at the start line, and an Ultra High Definition Drone. In 2017, we were able to arrange sponsorship from Erdinger, who provided Alcohol-Free beers for the finish line. Additionally, via press communications, we’ve also been able to provide assistance for creating and sending out media information.

As a generality and on an ongoing basis we provide facilities for the club itself, to have regular meetings. Each year concludes with a Glenrothes Triathlon Club presentation, which takes place at the hotel during the festive season. The 2017 summary contained many stories and highlights about individual club members and accomplishments made during the year. Many of these were life-changing circumstances, it’s completely motivational for all involved.

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