This year the only triathlon club in the Royal County - Tri An Mhi - celebrates its 10th anniversary. The club currently has a membership of about 100 people aged from 17 to 70 and beyond. “Most of our members are now over 40,” founder member Pearse Fahy (inset) told the Meath Chronicle.
Fahy has seen people taking part in triathlons who start shedding tears as soon as they cross the finishing line. He understands the reaction. After putting in a huge effort to finish a gruelling event that can include a swim, a protracted cycle topped off by an energy-sapping, morale-testing run, the emotions at the end can be overwhelming.
“Regularly you would have people that cross the finish line and break down in floods of tears,” Fahy added.
“People take on a challenge like a triathlon for different reasons. “Some people take it on to keep fit, some people may have lost a loved one or a partner and they may take on a challenge to try and help them get over something like that, or raise money for a cause.
“A lot of people will do that and the sense of achievement when you reach the end is massive,” he added, repeating the word “massive” just to underline his point.
In recent years, more juveniles are participating in the small-sized triathlons; encouraged by their parents’ awareness of the value of regular exercise.
Tri An Mhi caters for people with a wide variety of talents, ambitions and even nationalities with people from Spain, South Africa and Wales among the membership. In 2017 Tri An Mhi staged close to 45 events for club members only. These included a series of time-trials, aquathons and indoor bike sessions held in various venues around Meath - near Summerhill as well as Trim, Kells and the Aura Leisure Centre in Navan.
The club's two big, annual events, however, are the Sprint and Olympic races which attract high-end competitors from various parts of the country.
The Sprint event is, it could be argued, something of a misnomer as it involves a 750m swim, a 20km cycle and a 5km run.
The Olympic event consists of a 1,500m swim, 40km cycle and a 10km run with Tri an Mhi due to stage both races in the Lough Lene area on Saturday 16th June next.
Those events, however, are dwarfed by the monster, the full-on, aptly named 'Ironman' triathlon. This is something only experienced athletes could even consider; an exhausting test of mind and body that is certainly not for the fainthearted or those adverse to a little bit of suffering. T
ri An Mhi have yet to stage one - but that hasn't stopped many of its members completing Ironman races elsewhere.
Over 20 Tri An Mhi members travelled to Barcelona last September including Ernest Blanco, who is originally from Catalonia and who now lives in Trim, and who completed the 3.8km swim, 180km cycle and marathon in less than 10 hours.
Other Tri An Mhi members have managed to achieve similar feats of athleticism over the years including Michelle White, another founder member, who has swam the English and North Channels in relays.
She also completed the Manhattan Island circuit.
Siobhan Payne, also from Trim, has shown astonishing courage to recover from cancer and complete a double Ironman as well as completing the JFK 50-mile walk last summer.
Others have lofty ambitions for the year ahead. Marie Gorman from Navan, who also competed in Barcelona, is planning on doing the 555km Wild Atlantic Way cycle in 2018 while Tri An Mhi PRO Linda Kinsella from Ratoath is looking to take part in the 'Escape from Alcatraz' triathlon in Los Angeles also later this year.
And therein can be found one of the attractions of triathlons. That innate human desire of some people to push themselves to the outer limits of their capabilites; to delve deep into the depths of their being and see how far it takes them.
It's about, it seems, striving to achieve something exceptional, but in a sensible way.
“I think it's important for people to push themselves and see what they can do,” added Fahy who completed the Barcelona triathlon last Autumn.
“People might think 'oh no I'll never be able to do it' but it's partly about going at your own pace.
“It's important to push yourself at the same time and see how well or how quickly you can do it, but we have to remember, we're not professional athletes, we're middle-aged people, we're people with families and jobs, people with busy lives.
“I have ve three children and I have to find the time to train, but if you really want to you really will find the time. It also helps to have an understanding partner.”
Fahy is somewhat gratified to see how Tri An Mhi has grown and developed over the years.
The former Dunshaughlin footballer recalled how about 10 years ago he saw an advertisement in the Meath Chronicle that piqued his interest.
“The advert was placed there by Liam Newman from Kells to see if there was anybody interested in forming a triathlon club in Meath. “We had a meeting in the Headfort Arms in Kells, just a couple of like-minded people, that's really where it all started.”
The first event organised by the club was a duathlon with Gibbstown Hall the race headquarters.
“About eight or nine took part that day,” he recalled.
He thinks the membership of the club was greatly boosted when recession hit in 2008 and people sought more outlets for their time. Among those who joined up soon after the club was formed was the current chairman Alan Ludlow who is from Drumconrath and has represented Ireland in various events particularly duathlons.
Ludlow talks of the challenges facing Tri An Mhi and right up there is getting message out to the broader population of Meath that the club is there - willing and able to help anyone who wishes to challenge themselves.
“It's the kind of sport an awful lot of people get into without knowing that the resources of the club are there, aimed to help them out,” he said.
“We have members ranging from sub-10 hour Ironman racers to people who are basially learning how to swim and maybe haven't ridden a bicycle in 20 years and these would train and race together. “It's not like football where you have the top end athletes and then you have the newcomers who are completely segregated. Everyone trains together.”
He added that people only need to do what they are comfortable with.
For the newcomers there is the 'Try Triathlon' consisting of a 350m swim, 10km cycle and 2.5 km run that can be completed before moving on to the next level - if they so wish.
According to Fahy, events like triahtlons are, above all fair.
“It's not like football, a team sport, where you could be training all the time and come match day people who haven't necessarily trained all year and get their place ahead of other people.
“It's a very fair sport in so far as you get what you put into it and that's what a lot of people enjoy about it.”
Triathlons and duathlons are also very emotional events for many people who push themselves to the limit and, who shed tears of joy, or relief, at the finishing line.