When John McAvoy first had dreams of becoming a professional athlete, several metres of concrete, barbed wire and iron bars held him back. The former professional bank robber was currently mid-way through a hefty prison sentence, serving time for conspiracy to commit robbery and firearms offences.
Whilst behind bars in 2009, after watching a news report covering the death of one his close friends during a police chase, John realised that his life of crime was over. Redemption takes many forms, and McAvoy found solace and peace in the prison gym.
Following several years of training and fitness regimes at her majesty’s pleasure, and breaking indoor records left, right and centre – John was released and immediately turned his attention to bettering himself, and his personal bests, by entering the world of multisport.
John’s journey to this year’s Challenge Almere-Amsterdam on 9 September 2017 has taken many turns, from success at indoor rowing championships in 2012, to a podium at the London Ultra Duathlon in 2015. In 2016 he turned his attention to long-distance racing, and competed at the European championships in Frankfurt.
This September, John will compete with some of the best age groupers from all over Europe, as it is announced that he will race Challenge Almere-Amsterdam – home of the ETU 2017 Long Distance Triathlon European Championship – taking place in Flevoland, Holland.
Challenge Family has been running the race since 2013. The Dutch triathlon is the oldest triathlon in Europe, and the second oldest in the world after Hawaii. Characterised by a course littered with wind-battered flat roads and characteristic Dutch windmills, Challenge Almere is ‘sure to test even the hardiest long distance triathlete’.
Previous winners include world champion Chrissie Wellington; and the history of the race is littered with some of the Netherland’s triathlon heroes, including Axel Koenders and Gregor Stam. Yvonne van Vlerken is back on the start list after few years away and is attempting to break the women’s race record (8:56, Irma Heeren 1999).