Engadine teacher on triathlon world stage

Family time for Harrison, Rachel and Dominic Kennedy includes swimming, running and cycling. Photo: Kitty Beale

A common interest and healthy dose of competition keep triathlete Rachel Kennedy and her family moving.

The Drama, Music and Religious Education teacher at St John Bosco College Engadine represented Australia in the Half IRONMAN 70.3 World Championships in South Africa on 1 September. Her husband Jay, and sons Dominic, 9, and Harrison, 7, were there to support her. The boys are students at St John Bosco Catholic Primary School Engadine and compete in triathlon-inspired IRONKIDS and MINIMAN events. About Catholic Schools asked Rachel about training as a family and racing towards her goals.

Q: What made you get involved in triathlons?

A: “After Harrison was born, I said to Jay that it would be an interesting thing to do. We joined the Engadine triathlon club and did a race. One of the greats of the club said to me ‘You’ll be hooked’. I was like ‘Nah, it’s just a bit of fitness’, but we were hooked.”

Q: What makes triathlons so addictive?

A: “The fitness is fantastic and we train with the kids a lot. We put them on their bikes and run with them as they ride. They will happily go for 15ks, so that’s nice spending time with them outdoors. Racing is really rewarding, knowing you can push yourself and try to achieve some goals. The friendship is fantastic too. Everybody in our club is friends with each other and we do things together socially, but even out on the track neighbouring clubs will call out to you and cheer you on. It’s just a really lovely atmosphere.”

Q: What was your training schedule like ahead of the World Championships?

A: My training picked up in intensity ahead of the event  so I’ve been averaging 9.5 to 10 hours each week. Today was a rest day. Yesterday I did a 16km run and a 1km swim after a 65km bike ride the day before. Ordinarily I try to do something every day.”

Q: Does having a common interest make you competitive as a family?

A: “Everybody in the club always jokes that Jay and I aren’t competitive at all! We’re always trying to beat each other. He can run so much faster than me, but it’s always close as to who is going to win the swim. It nice to know that we can go for a swim or a run together. Then we get to have a weekend away – just with a little race in the middle.”

Q: What does the Half IRONMAN involve?

A: “The event is a 1.9km swim [in Nelson Mandela Bay], a 90km cycle and 21.1km run. In order to compete in this event you have to qualify, so it boggles my mind that I’ve managed to do that.”

Q: Do your sons compete?

A: “Through the club they do aquathons with us, which are a swim and a run, and sometimes a ride and a run. Their competition is through sanctioned events.”

Q: Does your involvement in triathlons help with the physicality of teaching?

A: “Since I’ve been doing triathlons I’ve become more movement oriented. I had lost weight and had gone from being very sedentary to doing ridiculous amounts of training for quite big races. I think it does help that I’m not afraid to jump or run around and when we do our school cross country, I run it with the students. I try and help motivate them to do the best they can.”

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