Tuesday, 03 August 2021

Father and son and cycle shop sales manager among local competitors

A FATHER and son will be among the athletes from the Henley area taking part in this year's Challenge Henley.

A FATHER and son will be among the athletes from the Henley area taking part in this year’s Challenge Henley.

Dentist Paul Stuart-Bennett, of St Andrew’s Road, Henley, and his eldest son Christopher hope to complete the race together.

They aim to finish in 14 hours, 35 minutes and 46 seconds — the same time that it took 62-year-old Mr Stuart-Bennett snr to row from Oxford to London about 40 years ago.

“The figure has always stuck in my mind,” he said. “It would be quite fun to finish at the same time and I think it is achievable.I have rowed all my life so I know physiologically I can do it, I’ve just had to learn how to swim.”

He had lessons at Henley leisure centre during the winter before he and his son took part in several events, including the Henley Mile swim and the Henley triathlon, where Mr Stuart-Bennett won the over-60s section.

He has enjoyed training with his 35-year-old son, an environmental project manager, who lives in Bristol.

Mr Stuart-Bennett said: “This year I have seen much more of him than normal, which has been good. We are aiming to do it together rather than rushing to beat each other. We are dreadfully competitive normally but we just want to do this.

“I am aware there are going to be challenging moments but I am not apprehensive about it.”

Mr Stuart-Bennett, who has lost about two stone during training, will be competing in aid of Sue Ryder. Some of his patients at the Courtrai House dental practice in Reading Road, Henley, have benefited from the charity’s help.

“Sadly, some of them do end up in Sue Ryder and I have had cause to go and see them on occasion,” he said. “I am hoping I can raise more than £1,000.”

To make a donation, visit www.virginmoneygiving.com/paulstuartbennett

James Thompson, sales manager of AW Cycles in Henley Road, Caversham, was inspired to take part in the iron-distance race after completing the cycle leg as part of a relay team last year.

He said: “I was waiting for our runner to come over the finish line and I was just mesmerised by the people completing the race.

“I was really inspired by the achievements and their emotions and the hard work they had put in.”

He was convinced to enter after speaking to triathlete Fay Dellimore, who has won the Lanzarote Ironman event eight times.

Mr Thompson, 29, has taken part in many endurance cycling events but was a poor swimmer so Dellimore helped train him until he was ready to enrol on a six-week training course.

Mr Thompson, who lives in Reading, said: “Fay was really patient with me but made me believe that I could do it, which is such a big part of it because it is the mental spirit that gets you over the finish line.” Simon Rourke, his training partner, helped him prepare for the running section of Challenge Henley.

The men met at the Green Park Triathlon in Reading in March, where they finished 13 seconds apart and had the same split times for each discipline.

Mr Thompson said: “It could have been a really long, lonely year but we have had so much fun.”

They have taken part in six shorter races in preparation for Sunday’s event and have each beaten the other three times so this will be the decider.

Mr Thompson hopes to finish in less than 13 hours.

He said: “It is going to be a challenge — just taking on the individual components on their own is no mean feat. I am really excited about it though.

“I am going to feel an enormous sense of relief when I cross the line.”

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