A triathlete’s training schedule as a tough as they come, so dealing with demanding photographers on an unusually dry day on Glasgow’s south side fails to cause any problems for Scotstoun’s Marc Austin.
At 17, Austin has enrolled on a BSc Mathematics course at Stirling University, Scotland’s University of Sporting Excellence, which puts him in one of the best places to make the step up to senior level after an incredible year as a junior.
While a senior triathlete will complete 30-35 gruelling hours a week swimming, cycling, and running, Austin’s schedule as a junior is somewhat lighter, but still demands over 20 hours a week in the pool, on a bike, running, and conditioning.
On top of his studies, it’s a schedule which your average student would shudder at the mere mention of, but endurance sports require dedication, and Austin is fully aware of, and admits to enjoying, the demands his sport requires of him.
Unsurprisingly, he was stoic as he was thrust forward for another interview, over an hour after the questioning from students at Bellahouston Academy’s Glasgow School of Sport had begun, and a further 30 minutes of being made to stand in all manner of positions and near blinded by flash guns during the obligatory photo call in a bright white Winning Students polo.
It’s something Austin will have to get used to if he continues to rise the triathlon ranks after a stellar year, culminating in competing in and winning gold in the junior mixed relay at the ETU Triathlon European Championships in Pontevedra, and being selected for Great Britain for the ETU Youth Triathlon European Championships in August.
Austin is one of several new athletes inducted on to the Stirling University-based Winning Students programme, which will help him develop as an athlete will completing his studies, and he recognises the importance of both the financial and educational benefits the scholarship.
“It helps really, because money is a big issue, especially with travelling, so I’ll take anything I can get to be honest,” he said.
“Student accommodation, especially. Without Winning Students, I probably wouldn’t be able to stay [at university], and would have to live at home, so it’s a lot less to worry about.
“I’m obviously putting some money to go towards to go away to races, and camps, and it’s kind of an alibi at uni, so you can always get help if you fall behind on coursework or need to change exams.
“I know that last year some guys had to have exams deferred because they had training camps, so they were able to do them when they got back, and it seemed quite simple.”
While other Winning Students athletes are preparing for big events in the coming weeks and months, Austin’s season has ended, and he faces a long wait for the next major event, but acknowledges there is still a great deal of work to be done over the winter.
“The racing season has just ended, so when it starts up again in April, the first major race for me would be the Europeans, so for me I want to qualify for that,” he added.
“Last year I finished 13th, but I’m stronger this year, so in the winter I’d like to think that I’m going to be in pretty good shape, and I’d be able to there with a chance of a medal, not necessarily win a medal, but be in with a chance of a fight for a medal, around the top five area.
“Between now and January it’s just base miles. Just getting a lot of consistent miles, building up strength, and making sure I don’t get injured. I’ll put in a couple of races, cross countries, so the first race isn’t a shock to the system.
“Once I get to January I’ll start ramping the training up a bit, to get race fit, because although I’ll be doing hard sessions at the moment, they’re not going to be race specific, so I just beed top get my body in race fitness. They’re different types of training, but I’m quite looking forward to it.”
While the London 2012 Olympics will come too soon for Austin, Understandably, his long-term goal is to make the qualifying time for the 2014 Commonwealth Games in his home city, and after that the 2016 Olympics in Rio.
“Yeah, I’m training with the squad, the main guys in Scotland, so I know who I’m going to have to beat, I think I’ve got a pretty good chance of going to that,” he said with a smile.
“It makes it easier that I know the competition to qualify, because I’m training with them, I’m not going to be that bothered if I don’t get in, as it’ll be my friends who do, but I’d really like to go. It’s not something I’m thinking about every day right now, as there are other things I’m focussing on, but I do think about it, because I’m from Glasgow, so it would be pretty amazing, because people I know would be able to come.”
Highlighting the advantage of studying and living in Stirling as a triathlete, Austin is adamant that he wouldn’t have the same luxury were he studying in Glasgow or Edinburgh, despite both being excellent institutions.
“Everything at Stirling is on site, so I don’t have to travel for anything. I’m living in halls so it’s just a five minute walk to lectures, and swimming, and running and cycling I can pretty much do from the doorstep.
“The timetable is not too bad, and the workload, I’ve not had to miss training, but there are times when I’ve had to move a few hours.
“Because the national squad is based in Stirling, there are always guys to train with, and my coach is there as well, so it’s a lot easier in that respect.
“Last year, I was living in Glasgow, and it’s much it’s much harder to get out on the bike, because you’ve got 30 minutes each way to clear the traffic, but in Stirling, it’s just five minutes and you’re out in the open.”
To hammer home the point of how gruelling his schedule can be, Austin was kind enough to offer up a quick snapshot in the life of a triathlete, something not for the fainthearted.
“I swim six mornings a week, then a bit of core work, then some stretching, then maybe have a sleep depending on the timetable, but I swim-bike-run most days, just fitting it in with lectures so I can do it with other guys too.”
His maturity and commitment belie his youth, but it’s clear from just a brief conversation with him, that he has the right attitude, and now through the Winning Students the necessary support around him for his dreams to come to fruition.