Tuesday, January 15, 2013

#1 Prologue

A potted history of the first eight years of 220 Triathlon Magazine.
There is a big bunch of pictures, chosen at random, on the Extra Photos page
and when you've finished going through this lot, more nostalgia links: 

An English/French FaceBook group: 
Mike Plant and ST’s 
http://www.trihistory.com both worth a √




Extra Photos

This is the Prologue, read on ›

Total Fitness Triathlon Club 1987. Me, Trevor Gunning and Nick Fisher

My name is John Lillie and this is my account of how 220 Magazine came in to being. There are ten more pages, each one represents a year's worth of publications and finally an appendix with a bit more of my stuff. This  blog is a work in progress and I welcome, in fact need, input from readers who have an opinion. I would like to include stories from anyone who could write a couple of words (not those two words!) or a sentence, or a paragraph or a page about what they remember from back in the day.

I'm hoping to hear from anyone who has time to put finger to keyboard and tell me what they thought, what was good, what was poor and what happened between 1989 and 1997 from a 220 triathlon view point. Anecdotes gladly accepted.

Send to: johnlillie@easy.com
Thanks and good writing.

Triathlon in the early 1980's was a sport so small that it didn't even have a niche. It was fragmented, lacked disciplined, raw and un-goverened. In the UK the sport followed what was happening in California. However by the mid eighties there were sufficient events each week for competitors to be able to call themselves triathletes. We didn't have the Californian sunshine so a lot of races were based at indoor swimming pools with only a few "massed start" events in open water.

In 1986 I joined one of the few triathlon clubs, Total Fitness in Swindon, which was also the first? specialist triathlon shop in the country. I did some triathlons then at the end of 1987 entered the the most famous event of the year which was the Hawaii Ironman (how this came about is another story). The next year I went back to Hawaii with a couple of team mates and this is where the story begins:

In 1988 I came back from Ironman Hawaii with my Total Fitness Tri Club mates Trevor Gunning and Kevin Ferris, satisfied that we had all finished the race, got our medals and finisher's T-shirts and had a remarkable experience on the Big Island. I'd go so far to say on return we were buzzing!
John Lillie, Kevin Ferris, Trevor Gunning
A month later Triathlete Magazine came out with the Hawaii race report. In those days it was the American issue with a UK supplement wrapped round the outside. I read the report with a big smile on my face and then turned to the results page. Nothing. Despite a good turn out of Brits at the race not one was mentioned, I was incensed. Actually the UK supplement recorded the finishing times of some Australians . . . . . ?

"You'd better start your own magazine" someone half joked to me. It was only a half joke because I was a serial starter of businesses and at the time one of them was quite profitable so I had the wherewithal to do it. So I did.

I knew nothing about magazines, printing or publishing but another friend, Duncan Robb, had a Macintosh computer and told me I could do it on my desktop with a program called PageMaker. I convinced Duncan to start off being the editor and after much discussion about a name - I didn't want anything obvious that included Triathlon or British or News - he came up with 220 (the theoretical maximum heart rate) I thought that was all right, and we were away.

I realise now that starting the magazine like this was a bit like starting an Ironman race with no training, no experience and not knowing the route. I had no Forward Planning, no Cash-flow Forecast, no Statement of Assets and Liabilities and no Mission Statement. The nice thing was that I didn't need to persuade any of my mates to lend a hand, writing, reporting or taking snaps, everyone else seemed to be just as enthusiastic and optimistic.

Duncan was responsible for collating the first few issues. I think he had to print the text with a laser printer then paste it on a board and take it to a "Repro House" for them to scan and add our photos. They could then make a set of four films for each page. This film, one for each print colour, then went to an offset litho printer to be printed. At first we saved some money by having a section of pages in black and white. The first big headache was we had to print a minimum of 2,000 copies and had, as yet, no customers or advertisers.

The initial print run was mailed out free to every British Triathlon Association member, something less than 2,000 at that time but with a hard copy in my hand I set about selling advertising space. Being naive at the publishing game I didn't know that big companies set their advertising budgets a year in advance, but we managed to get a few advertisers and this helped pay the printing and repro bill.

My idea was to have a magazine that was not conventional, I wouldn't go so far as to say subversive, but I wanted to be able to question the administration that ran (or didn't) British Triathlon. It really would be a tri-fanzine just for me and my mates and anyone else who 'got it'. I didn't want only star athletes on the cover (that did change), it would be a people's magazine. The first cover was a postcard I bought in Hawaii of three Polynesians - exactly what I wanted, nothing to do with triathlon! (although someone did remark that it was me, Trevor and Kev in disguise, ha ha)


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  1. Well what a surprise to find this floating around in cyberspace. I remember those early days so fondly and am proud to see the mag still thriving and the sport so mainstream.
    John, your inspiration and drive made it happen and I'm so pleased that at long last a definitive history of 220 is being put together.
    Oh and thanks for digging out that picture of me; I've still got the wetsuit but might have a problem getting into it.

  2. AWESOME blog John. I was a regular at 220 events in the 1990s. Great memories. I wrote this article about my early days in the sport.




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