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London Triathlon tackling the gender gap in participation sport


Women’s sport is enjoying healthy levels of growth. However, in many participation sports events the number of women competing is still well behind the men. Limelight Sports, ‘the agency of the active world’, notes that it is committed to improving the ratio of women and men throughout its varied portfolio of participation events.

For this year’s London Triathlon, taking place on 27-28 July, the event organiser has teamed up with Her Spirit, a personalised coaching app for mind, body and fuel, that is aimed specifically at women. Together they have recruited thirty women new to the sport to understand why less women take part and what can be done to change this.

According to recent research from the Triathlon Industry Association (TIA), despite some increases in female participation, 68% of triathlon competitors are male. Limelight and Her Spirit note that the gender ratio in cycling events is even less balanced; and although running events are more equal Marastats shows that 62% of marathon runners and 54% of half marathon runners are male.

Participation in these sports more broadly is still very male skewed according to Sport England’s Active Lives – 63% of cyclists and 55% of runners are male.

Her Spirit targets women looking to take part in participation events for the first time and seeks to make the experience as easy, supportive and as enjoyable as possible. Expert coaching and peer to peer support from like-minded women helps to guide women through all the elements involved in taking part.

For the London Triathlon at the end of July, 30 women were chosen to join the initial programme which was six times over-subscribed. The selected women received a number of benefits including free entry to the event, use of a wetsuit for training and competing, an 8-week training programme including one-to-one online coaching sessions, their own online community and group coaching sessions.

One of the women selected is 36 year old Claire Smith from Chigwell in London and her story was typical of many. She said, “I am relatively fit and I love to swim, run and cycle but have never been brave enough to enter a triathlon. I only swim breaststroke so thought this would automatically disqualify me from entering. I also don’t own a wetsuit. The level of support offered to enter this triathlon is just what I need to get that first one in the bag and hopefully start what could be a lifelong love of triathlons.”

Craig Dews, CEO Limelight Sports commented, “In 1990 when Limelight first started organising major participation events, they were generally very male dominated. Over the last 15 years, there has been an increase in the percentage of female participants but much more work needs to be done.

“At Limelight, we are looking to get a better understanding of the barriers to women taking part in participation sport and then use the learnings to improve the way we market and deliver events to substantially increase the number of women taking part.”

Melanie Berry, co-founder of Her Spirit, said, “Participation sports such as running, cycling and triathlon provide the perfect platform for women to experience the achievement and thrill of taking part in professionally organised participation events. Women need to feel more confident about looking for greater challenges such as the London Triathlon; and Her Spirit aims to help them as much as possible to take the first steps and go on to complete the journey.”



  1. My club Hampstead Triathlon Club has a very equal male/female raito and there are often more women at club sessions than men.


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