TriRadar chats to James Heptonstall, one half of Epic Challenges along with Noel Carroll.
Words: Andrew Cumner-Price
Composed of former England touch rugby player James Heptonstall and Noel Carroll, a strength and conditioning coach at Arsenal’s academy, Epic Challenges recently made TriRadar headlines for beating the Brownlee brothers in an unusual urban triathlon challenge.
Heptonstall and Carroll ran, swam and cycled across London, while the Brownlees took on a less conventional triathlon – crossing the river on the Air Line, taking a bus from the 02 and finally jumping into a rickshaw to cross the finish line at Greenwich Park.
“The idea had been in the back of our minds for a while, since Race the Tube,” Heptonstall told TriRadar.
“With Noel’s background in triathlon, we thought an urban triathlon in London would be great. We thought it would be amazing to race against the Brownlee brothers.
“We pitched it with the guys at Addias and they told us the Brownlees were really interested.”
Epic Challenges landmark victory was as a result of tough training according to Heptonstall.
While the duo were generally performing their usual training routines, their schedules were switched up once they found out the Brownlees were up for the challenge.
“In the month since we found out they were up for it, we focused on triathlon training,” Heptonstall explained.
“For Noel it was a case of getting back into the swing of things. He has a back ground with triathlons, so he trained for all three disciplines. This was my first triathlon, and I’m not a strong swimmer, so I focused on training for that.”
Heptonstall describes the triathlon challenge as one of the toughest yet for Epic Challenges, both in the race itself, and the logistics of organising such a showdown.
“This was by far the most complex challenge to arrange, as there are three disciplines which needed a lot of support.”
Though the duo had their minds set on an urban triathlon in London, working out where would prove to be as difficult as the race itself.
“We needed a location where we could swim. Originally we thought about swimming across the River Thames,” Heptonstall explained.
“We spoke to the port of London authority, but they shut that down – apparently it’s almost a hanging offence. They don’t allow anyone to swim further down from Westminster, even on special occasions.
“So we contacted Rick Kiddle, who runs an open water swimming club in the royal Victoria, and he was keen to get involved.
“He helped us facilitate using the dock for the swim section. Once we had that, things fell into place.”
The unique stipulations of a triathlon also complicated matters, with the event needing a lot of cameras to capture the video, people to look after the bikes, and people to sort out the transition zones.
“We felt very privileged to meet Alistair and Johnny,” Heptonstall added. “Especially with their schedule up to Rio. They’re both great guys, and seemed to really enjoy the challenge too.”
Epic Challenges has been around since Heptonstall and Carroll’s university days, when the duo were on the university’s athletics team.
After receiving Go Pro cameras for Christmas, Heptonstall and Carroll came up with the idea for the Race the Tube challenge, with the video proving popular on Youtube.
“We get a lot of questions about what we were doing next. We’ve talked about some challenges that utilise my long jump skills but it’s hard to figure out.
“We thought about jumping various things but didn’t want to be too derivative of parkour videos.”
Heptonstall believes the endurance challenges go down well with viewers, and that Epic Challenges will return in 2016.
“There was quite a lot of planning that went into the Brownlee challenge,” he said.
“It takes a few months at a time to release a video, but we have lots of ideas.”