"It’s always better if you are training as part of a team and have somebody that you can go training with, or that holds you accountable. My colleague Caroline has been my training buddy and we go out every week."

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Harry's Heroes: Fundraising through Swim, Bike and Run

With her 5-year-old nephew Harry being diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukaemia, Jill Sinclair motivated 20 of her colleagues and family members to take part in triathlon and raise funds for her workplace charity, the DWF Foundation and the Scotland-based charity, It’s Good 2 Give.

“The diagnosis was completely out of the blue and really turned our worlds upside down,” said Jill. “We were left feeling a little bit helpless because we couldn’t go and see Harry at times due to his low immune system and the treatment he was having, so it was a bit of a rocky time for us all.”

Jill was inspired by Harry and his sister Grace, saying: “Throughout it all, Harry’s been a little superstar. He’s been really positive. His big sister Grace has done a lot in terms of raising funds for charity, doing the Kiltwalk and a Zumbathon with some of her friends to raise money for It’s Good 2 Give.”

Wanting to raise funds herself, Jill decided to take up triathlon, saying: “A team of us from work were already taking part in the Great Scottish Run and are always on the lookout for a new challenge, I decided to do triathlon.

“I could hardly swim a length in October last year so that is the big challenge for me. I’m ok at running, I’m ok at cycling but swimming was always going to be my weakest discipline.”

Jill has been overwhelmed by the willingness of her friends and colleagues to support her, not only with the fundraising efforts, but also in triathlon training, saying: “It’s always better if you are training as part of a team and have somebody that you can go training with, or that holds you accountable. My colleague Caroline has been my training buddy and we go out every week. Because we know that the other person is relying on us, there’s no excuses. Every Thursday for the last year and a half, we’ve been out running and when I asked her to get involved in triathlon, she agreed straight away."

Speaking of the support offered by her employers at DWF, Jill said: “DWF have been fantastic in terms of supporting the fundraising and training efforts. Their charitable foundation organised a 2020 pledge where everybody had to pledge to do something to raise funds for the foundation and try to encourage other people in the firm to get involved. As soon as the triathlon pledge was listed, many colleagues agreed to take part.

“There’s been an amazing team spirit and a huge focus on training. We’ve got a personal trainer to come into work who’s going to do some HIIT sessions with us, there’s weekly yoga, weekly running, and Caroline has organised a session with a "real" triathlete to practice our transitions.”

Jill stumbled across GO TRI when searching for triathlon training plans, saying: “I was really taken by it because it’s really trying to encourage as many people, no matter their ability, to get involved. It’s really inclusive, you don’t have to be super fit as there are a lot of events through GO TRI which are taster sessions and also cover smaller distances or only a couple of disciplines."

Jill, together with her colleagues and friends, going by the collective “Harry’s Heroes” have signed up for the Bishopbriggs Big Bobble Triathlon in May this year. “Having been encouraged by the GO TRI campaign, I did a gym-based novice triathlon in January, so at least I know that I can do all three disciplines one after the other, I just need to work on stamina. Having two boys and working full time makes it difficult to do as much as I’d like to, but this has given me a focus in trying to get more active,” Jill said.

Jill believes that her participation in the sport has improved not only her physical health, but her mental health too, saying: “I’ve seen the health benefits; the swimming has helped me improve my running in terms of breathing and that’s only over a few months. I’ll definitely continue. It has become a little outlet for me, getting back into a fitness routine.

“Even if you only do half an hour, then it makes such a difference to your day. It is easy to make excuses, you’ll always think that you’re too busy, but you can find half an hour. The swim doesn’t actually take that long, it’s more the thought of it. The others in the team have been building the disciplines into their day, with Julia swapping her usual commute for the bike and Emma getting up an hour earlier to go swimming before work."

Harry was recently cleared by his consultant to go on his first day out, with Jill saying: “It’s his birthday soon and his dad organised for him to go to see some Monster Trucks.

“He’s doing as well as he can in terms of his treatment. He’s such a happy, resilient little boy. He’s such an inspiration, he’s positive all the time, he’s always happy and asking me how my day is, he’s always thinking about everyone else. He’s really excited about all that we’re doing in terms of triathlon, we’re hoping that he’ll be able to come to cheer us on at the finish line.”